Fences

On Sunday my husband and I went to see “Fences”.

fences_film

It was the ninth and final Best Picture nominee that I needed to see before the Academy Awards air this coming Sunday night. I love both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis and I had been interested in seeing this film since the first time I saw a preview for it back in the fall. The fact that I had been looking forward to seeing this film for so long is part of the reason I found the actual film so disappointing.

Adapting a book or a play to the screen can be tricky business; when a book is made into a movie so much that is on the page ends up being left off the screen, while a play adaption poses a different set of challenges and “Fences” falls prey to those challenges. A play is very intimate and often takes place in one or two locations while films can go anywhere. I have not seen either of Denzel Washington’s previous directorial efforts but he does not do a good job here. Much like Sophia Coppola and 2003’s “Lost in Translation” he forgets to move the camera. It’s as if he forgot he was making a motion picture and he just wanted to set up a camera in front of a stage and that’s a problem.

Fences
Cort Theatre

Another problem is that the first third of the movie just feels like a series of monologues. Yes, that works on the stage but it’s not good for a movie. I’m all in favor of monologues but the first third of the film felt super stiff. The film did get better as it went along but that was more because Viola Davis was given more and more screen time and more and more to do as the story unfolded.  I understand “Fences “ is portraying a specific moment in time for an African-American family and that it’s a story that is often untold, the problem is Denzel Washington’s character of Troy really is an awful human being and at the end of the day he doesn’t really have to face the consequences of his actions. I don’t need a film full of likable characters but I also am no okay with a film that endorses the actions of deplorable people and that’s what I felt this film, much like 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”, did.

As for the performances…Denzel has made a lot of crappy action films since 2001’s “Training Day” so it’s nice to see him really take advantage of a chance to act his ass off. I hated his character and his direction but Denzel’s performance is excellent.

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Viola Davis is amazing, as I expected her to be. I do think her role is a leading role rather than supporting role. I’m happy for the all the praise she’s gotten for her performance.

viola

Jovan Adepo is pretty good as Washington and Davis’s son but I think he could have been better if the film had been directed in a more natural way. I was happy to see Mykelti Williamson, a.k.a. Bubba in “Forrest Gump”, give a nice performance as Gabe.

I don’t know that you can recommend the performances of a film but not the film itself but that’s how I feel about “Fences”.  To use one of the sports metaphors “Fences” is so fond of, the film both hits a triple and strikes out.  Washington and Davis are wonderful but the film as a whole is a miss.

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Here is a description:

Justin Gomez and his sister, Terri, have never been close. Separated by nine years and distant in adulthood, Justin and Terri have little in common, except for the love of her three children. In the days before they embark on a road trip to visit the father that once abandoned them and their now deceased mother, both Terri and Justin are dealing with unexpected changes in their lives. Justin surprisingly realizes he might want more than a series of one night stands after a first date goes unexpectedly well. After a lifetime of being a strong type A personality, Terri is forced to confront the reality of the end of her marriage. As they hit the road, with Terri’s children in tow, they find themselves forced to rely on and confide in each other following a devastating event. Confronted with memories from the past and challenges from the present, Terri and Justin must dig deep and unearth the truth about themselves and their parents in order to build a new family based on their love for each other.

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