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