Fam­ily is tough

Red Eye Chicago - - Movies -

De­pend­ing on your fam­ily’s dy­namic, “Fences” could be ei­ther a great or a ter­ri­ble movie to see dur­ing the hol­i­days. Is there un­bear­able ten­sion be­tween Dad and one of his off­spring? Un­less it’s the kind of ten­sion that can be re­solved with a post-movie chat and a hug, maybe skip see­ing this one with peo­ple re­lated to you.

What hap­pens?

In 1950s Pitts­burgh, Troy Max­son (Den­zel Wash­ing­ton) works as a garbage man to pro­vide for his fam­ily. He’s a man gov­erned by re­spon­si­bil­ity, com­mit­ted to duty be­fore love, and bit­ter about the hard­ships life dealt him. Bear­ing the brunt of his black-and-white out­look is his wife, Rose (Vi­ola Davis), and younger son, Cory (Jo­van Adepo). As Troy strug­gles to ac­cept the man he has be­come, he doesn’t seem to re­al­ize his ac­tions are neg­a­tively af­fect­ing those he loves most.

What’s good?

Un­sur­pris­ingly, the cast is mag­nif­i­cent. Ev­ery ma­jor char­ac­ter, with the ex­cep­tion of Adepo, reprises their role from a 2010 Broad­way re­vival of Au­gust Wil­son’s 1983 play, on which the film is based. Wil­son penned the screen­play be­fore he died in 2005, and all of the ac­tors in­habit their char­ac­ters like ex­ten­sions of them­selves. Davis is par­tic­u­larly force­ful; her per­for­mance hits like a slap across the face. Wash­ing­ton gives a gifted de­liv­ery of Wil­son’s lyri­cal di­a­logue, and as di­rec­tor, he clearly takes care to pre­serve the orig­i­nal themes and feel of the play. It’s hard to cap­ture the in­tri­cate messi­ness of fam­ily, but “Fences” proves up to the task.

FENCES What’s bad?

As ad­mirable as Wash­ing­ton’s ded­i­ca­tion to his source ma­te­rial is, it’s hard to deny that “Fences” still feels like a play. Long swaths of di­a­logue, while im­pec­ca­bly de­liv­ered, go on for­ever. Cer­tain beats that would be at home on the stage come on too strong for film. The jump from play to movie cer­tainly adds in­ti­macy, but “Fences” misses an op­por­tu­nity to do more.

Fi­nal ver­dict

A pro­found and beau­ti­fully acted story that needed to adapt a lit­tle more to truly be­come an adap­ta­tion.

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