Fences SPOILER-FREE Review
With 2016 coming to a close, I thought it would be fitting for my final post of the year to be a movie review of the last film I saw this year, Fences. I saw this a few days ago, but I have procrastinated writing this review until the final hours of the year. I had really high expectations for Fences. The first trailer absolutely blew me away. It had so much raw power and emotion that I was overwhelmed. After seeing that trailer, I did a little more research into the film and found out the backstory. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis performed the play on stage, and even won Tony Awards for their performances. So they worked with the playwright, August Wilson, to adapt it for the big screen, with Washington directing. When I learned this, my excitement level immediately increased, because these people know this play inside and out. If anyone was going to deliver on a great film adaptation, it was going to be these guys. So I walked into Fences thinking it could very well end up being one of my favorite films of the year, and I was not disappointed. Fences is a hard-hitting film, propelled by well-crafted dialogue and powerhouse performances.
Troy (Washington) is a middle-aged garbage man in the 1950's who seems to live a very modest and humble life with his wife Rose (Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo). However, as the film unfolds, we learn about current and past demons that reinvent these people and cause a whole lot of conflict to ensue.
I was glued to the screen for the entirety of this film. Denzel Washington is just so damn likable and charming that you are immediately sucked into his character. And as soon as he shows his more despicable side, you are able to sympathize with him more than you would have if Washington hadn't delivered as well as he did. He carries this film, and contributes so much to its emotion and heart. Troy is a very well-rounded character, and Washington perfectly encapsulates every nuanced element of the character. It's definitely one of the best performances of the year. Viola Davis has an equally subtle role as well, with moments of outburst that will leave you with chills. She is a very genuine and sympathetic person, and it makes some of the things that happen in this film all the more heartbreaking. But the performance I was most surprised by was Mykelti Williamson as Troy's mentally disabled brother. He never went overboard or over-the-top with the performance, but was rather restrained. It made for a very real performance that took me by surprise. I would definitely put him in consideration for a Best Supporting Actor award at the Academy Awards.
This really does feel like an adaptation of a play. The dialogue drives the movie, and the film is very restricted in its use of locations. Similar to the musical element of La La Land, the play format takes some getting used to at first, because it's not a traditional film. But once you get into it, you're locked in. The dialogue is so well written and brilliantly crafted, with a lot of great moments and lines. I never saw nor read the play, so I don't know how much was simply taken from that and what was written specifically for the screen, but it was fantastic dialogue. Denzel Washington also directs the hell out of this movie. He turns the lack of varying locations into a strength, and the abundance of dialogue into an attribute. He basically takes everything that limits this film and makes it work for the movie. What's amazing to me is that his performance is as good as it is without anyone except himself directing. It just shows how well he knows this material.
In terms of negatives, I don't have a lot. The film is kind of long, but I was so engaged in it that I didn't really care. We also could have used more of Viola Davis' character. She is in a lot of the film, but there are only a select few parts of the film where she has a moment to shine, whereas Washington has a lot more moments. The movie could've benefited from a few more Davis-centric scenes to really showcase the extent of her acting abilities. But aside from those few, nitpicky things, I didn't have any problems with this movie. The writing is fantastic. The performances are incredible. The directing is brilliant. There wasn't a ton done on the technical front. There wasn't a revolutionary score, nor breathtaking cinematography, but Fences didn't really need it. It's a dialogue and character oriented film; that's what should come first. And that's exactly what they did.
Overall, Fences is definitely one of the favorite movies of the year. It has Academy Award-worthy performances from Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, with great supporting performances from Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo and especially Mykelti Williamson. Washington does a brilliant job directing this film, and the writing is top-notch. It does take a little bit of time to get used to the movie's play format, but once it gets going, you're locked in. It's a very simple film, about family dynamics and relationships. And yet, Washington brings out the complexity and the shades of grey. The characters are all three-dimensional and fleshed out. You see their different points of view and perspectives. It has a lot of strong messages about fathers and sons, legacy and marriage. The movie was a little bit long, but it didn't matter so much to me, since I was so glued in. Overall, Fences is definitely one of my favorite films of the year, and I think it is one of the best made movies of 2016. I think Academy Award nominations for the writing, performances and directing are on the horizon for Fences.
What do you think? Have you seen Fences? Did you like the film? Leave your (spoiler-free) thoughts in the comments section below.
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