For those who may or may not know, Fences was originally a 1983 play by the legendary American playwright August Wilson. Set in the 1950s, Fences explores the evolving African-American experience, family, the relationship between a father and son, examines race relations, among other themes. The play won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play. Fences premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre on March 26, 1987, and closed on June 26, 1988, after 525 performances and 11 previews. Directed by Lloyd Richards, the cast featured James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader, The Sandlot) as Troy Maxson, Mary Alice (Malcolm X, The Matrix Revolutions) as Rose, and Courtney B. Vance (Terminator Genisys, Office Christmas Party) as Cory.
More recently, Broadway revived the iconic play. It opened at the Cort Theatre on April 26, 2010, with limited showing. Directed by Kenny Leon, this time around the production starred Denzel Washington (Training Day, The Equalizer) as Troy Maxson and Viola Davis (Prisoners, Suicide Squad) as Rose, as the married couple struggling with American race relations. The play was nominated for a total of ten Tony Awards, winning three for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor in a Play (Denzel Washington), and Best Actress in a Play (Viola Davis).
Now that we got that little history lesson out the way. Let’s talk about the actual movie Fences, because that’s what I’m assuming you are here for. The movie Fences is Denzel Washington’s third directorial film. This time honoring August Wilson’s powerful evocation of an African-American patriarch in 1950s Pittsburgh. Much like the 2010 play, this film brings back Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in recurring roles. The film focuses on Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a struggling garbage man worker in 1950s Pittsburgh. Maxson once dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, but was deemed too old, and at a time when the major leagues did not want black athletes. Bitter over his missed opportunity, Troy creates further tension in his family. He drinks, he is a struggling man trying to help his family, he blames many people around him for his personal issues, and he squashes his son's (Jovan Adepo) chance to meet a college football recruiter. All this and more creates tension, drama, verbal and physical confrontations, anger, and almost a real life fence that keeps the family separate from each other.
Denzel Washington in my opinion is one of the greatest actors of our time, and some people can argue he is actually a better director than he is an actor. Honestly, I believe he does both acting and directing very well. I have seen bits and pieces of the play online, and a couple of things I can say is the play really does a good a good job of allowing the audience to feel sympathy for everyone, and has really good dialogue. It seems like Denzel really wanted to stay true to the original source material. This movie has a lot of dialogue that really brings you into the story. At some parts of the movie, it does feel like an actual play. Meaning, there is lengthy dialogue, not to many scene changes, and the acting is great. I know that may sound boring to many people. But believe me when I tell you this movie has great performances, you feel a connection to every character on screen, at times funny, at times sad, and there are some good life lessons throughout the movie.
Now many people saw the trailer, and probably think it is just a movie about tough love a father is giving to his son. Although that is true, it is a little rougher than tough love. Troy Maxson is so angry at life, life has him down, and he does not know who to blame or get angry at. He is a good man. He helps his family, he puts food on the table, he puts a roof over their head, does all that he can, and has no clue on why life is so rough for him. Therefore, he gets angry at his son, and to keep things simple, his son pretty much says “Daddy, I’m done with this sh*t!.” He doesn’t actually say that in the movie, but I’m sure you get my point. It’s not just his son he gets angry at, but also his other family members, and even people he doesn’t know. I think he literally said, “That damn Jackie Robinson wasn’t sh*t compared to me!” Troy Maxson even has another son from a previous marriage. Even when his other son comes over to visit, and or ask for money, Troy is just waiting for him so he can tell him how useless he is, how he is not a real man and how he sucks as a musician. For anyone who has seen that episode of The Boondocks The Color Ruckus. Troy Maxson reminds me of Uncle Ruckus’ father in that episode.
Now even though Troy is a tough father, you do see things from his point of view. On the other hand, you see things from his son Cory’s point of view. Cory tells his father that he is jealous of him, and he will grow up to be better than his father. Jovan Adepo does an excellent job as playing Cory. In the trailer, they make it seem like Cory is scared and somewhat of a punk. However, in the film he does change. In the beginning he is scared, angry, and you really see all that rage build up inside of him, and when he finally unleashes that rage he might as well turn into the Hulk. This isn’t a spoiler, but the day your child is so pissed off at you, that they have a baseball bat and look like they want a hardcore backyard wrestling match. As a parent, that is when you should think to yourself, “Was I really that bad?”, so we see things from the father’s point of view, and the son. The son wants to defend himself, live his life, and go for his dream. So every character in here you can relate to, even though they do have flaws. That is what makes the characters relatable and feel like real people instead of characters.
Accordingly, this movie really is more about the characters and performances. Everyone does well in there performances, but when it comes to performances Viola Davis takes all the cake. There is a part in the movie where she snaps on Denzel, and you are so glad it happens. It is the scene in the trailer where she is yelling and you see mucus coming out of her nose. That was a powerful scene, and one of the most well acted scenes in the movie and possibly this year.
So these are My Final Bitchin’ Buddha Thoughts on Fences. If Denzel really claims his character was so good at baseball, I would believe him, because this movie hits so many home runs for me. It may have a plot we’ve seen before of the whole family drama. On the other hand, this has amazing acting, especially by Viola Davis. Anyone who has had family drama will certainly relate to this movie. It shows that the cast and crew love the original source material. The dialogue will encourage you, make you laugh, smile, fearful, and it sticks with you even after the movie has finished. In my opinion, the ending was just a little cheesy, but I like cheese. By the 3rd act of the movie, you start to really see Troy Maxson’s real personality. So overall Denzel has crafted a movie a majority of people can get behind. I believe Fences earns…
8 out of 10!
If you want to see a real good adaption of a play, you should definitely check this out. Thank you all for reading and or viewing, and I hope you all have an amazing day as always.
Images: Paramount Pictures