Wednesday, February 8, 2017

FENCES (2016)

Directed By: Denzel Washington 
Written By: August Wilson (Based on his play) 
Cinematography By: Charlotte Bruus Christensen 
Editor: Hughes Winbourne 

Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson

*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review

Troy Maxson makes his living as a sanitation worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black athletes. Bitter over his missed opportunity, Troy creates further tension in his family when he squashes his son's chance to meet a college football recruiter.

Fences was originally a 1983 play by August Wilson. Set in the 1950s, it is the sixth in Wilson's ten-part "Pittsburgh Cycle". Like all of the "Pittsburgh" plays, Fences explores the evolving African-American experience, and examines race relations, among other themes. The play won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play.

"Fences" opened on Broadway in 1987, winning the Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Actor, and Best Featured Actress. A revival of "Fences" opened in 2010, winning the Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor, and Best Actress. All five adult actors reprise their roles in this film adaptation, with Washington also directing.

Of course the film is very theatrical as it never truly leaves the neighborhood or even really the residence in which the main characters live. And while other characters are mentioned some vital to the plot we rarely If ever actually see them.

Which works on stage but is strange when it comes to a film. The closest it gets to really venturing outside is a scene where Denzel Washington's character goes to meet the commissioner of sanitation. Again a meeting we don't witness but we watch him wait outside of his element and neighborhood you can see why it is here on film. Some. Igor fault it for that, but It feels if anything at least for this film It makes it feel more intimate and personal. As we enter the characters world.

The film has a rich lived In feel that makes you feel comfortable and familiar at the same time.

August Wilson insisted that a film adaptation of the play, be directed by an African-American.

Denzel Washington gives another solid performance in the film. As again he doesn't play heroic he plays more a certain kind of scoundrel like his role in TRAINING DAY and even FLIGHT but more lighter. As he is a loud mouth know it all with a past and believes he is smarter than everyone else. Though drinks to drown out his own suffering and the pain he causes himself and seems to take out on his family more emotionally and mentally. Though you can tell he does deeply care about them but keeps messing up in trying to take care of his needs. He is a mean character, but there is a sympathy for him of sorts. This is a role Denzel Washington know well having played it on stage and winning a Tony for it. He obviously loves the material as it allows him range to be dignified and sad at the same time. In fact he felt so close that he Decided to direct it and bring it to the big screen. He doesn't seem to change any of the late playwrite August Wilson words at all hence keeping it more faithful to the stage and not finding a way to open it up too visually or literally for what we have come to expect.

This is probably his strongest directed movie, because of the script, words, and cast. Where he feels more comfortable and authorative with the material. That makes him only want to focus on the basics and the important parts and not visually stunning as much. There is a richness that surrounds the film. the Atmosphere, The characters, the dialogue they all have it.

One scene that is strong and very communicative is the scene where his son asks does he like him. He points out all that he does for his son and that is a foolish question but he never says he likes or loves him. Even though it is obvious he does.

The whole cast is excellent even though there is a cloud of sorrow that hangs over the film. It always feel genuine like how real people or these characters would talk the gestures. The language the emphasis.

Viola Davis who also won a Tony for this role on broadway is excellent as she is the emotional center and has one scene where she deserves many awards just for the emotions that ring true and her ugly crying. Which shows no fear and no vanity when it comes to her performance. The power in her performance is more physical and emotional. As she obviously doesn't have as many liens but is always there somewhere even if just in the background. She isn't as bombastic as her character's husband but her presence is still always felt. Especially when having to defend their son against her husband and show her son the support he needs that his father is obviously jealous of him to a degree that he will never acknowledge because his son might be able to be successful in sports unlike he never got a chance to as when the opportunity came he was too old.

Though written for the stage the film feels more personal than anything else. What is uniquely skilled and powerful is how certain details and relationships ships are defined just by certain tidbits and information dropped in what easily could have been throwaway lines. Especially helping to define the relationship between him and his older son and him and his best friend. Where we learn about his checkered last with no shame. Even if his most dramatic relationship is with his wife and youngest son who are in the house with him.

Watching this film is a revelation. As it is a film where you already knew to have faith in the cast, but they brought their skills to a whole new level. Where you don't realize how strong the film, he language and the writing is until it is over. As when you watch it. It just seems so natural that it doesn't cause any attention to itself. The acting is top notch all around even in the smaller supporting roles. Always hitting the right tone and managing to dazzle and surprise while staying totally believable.

Grade: B+

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