“Death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner.” -Troy Maxon
This is my Fences review.
And it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever written.
Let me start by saying that I love August Wilson the way some people loved Michael Jackson. I met him and actually cried when I shook his hand. He has long been my favorite playwright of all time, and I am such a fan of his work. I’ve read Fences the play no fewer than 20 times, so much that during the movie (which, by the way, I’ve already seen twice) I was actually quoting some of the lines. So this review is so difficult to me because I have an obvious bias. I worked really hard to write the review from an objective perspective, but I can’t. So here it is.
Fences, a movie based on a play written by August Wilson in 1983, stars Denzel Washington as Troy Maxon and Viola Davis as Troy’s wife Rose. The movie takes place in one location—the home that Rose and Troy share— and tells the story of a fifty-three year old man who is plagued by discontent, burdened by responsibility, haunted by missed opportunities, and struggles between doing what’s right and doing what feels good.
Troy is a complicated character. He’s a man who means well, and who feels a deep sense of responsibility and obligation toward his family, his two sons Lyons and Cory, his wife Rose, and, later, his daughter Raynell. He also cares for his brother Gabriel, a man who is injured fighting a war and left with significant mental illness. He deals daily with the realities that being Black in America is a constant struggle and that white people don’t do anything for Blacks regardless of their skill levels or abilities, despite the changing times during which the play takes place. There are so many complex themes and motifs woven into this story, so much commentary on death, coming of age, the Devil, planting seeds, and even the fence itself, for which the play is titled.
Okay. So that’s enough analysis of the plot.
Denzel and Viola bring life to this film that rendered me absolutely speechless. I walked into the screening prepared to be critical, to complain about how Hollywood always ruins good literature. To my surprise, the director of this film kept it as close to the original play as possible. Viola plays a dutiful wife, complete with her signature snot cry (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, especially if you watch How To Get Away with Murder. That woman can snot cry with the best of them). Her performance was stellar, rivaled only by Denzel’s portrayal of Troy, which was genius. The movie was easy to follow, although it was longer than the typical film. I noticed quite a bit of sniffling going on toward the end of the movie, which is a testament to the actors’ stellar performances.
Denzel and Viola did August justice and breathed new life into an already amazing play. Their performances were moving and believable. This is definitely a movie I’d recommend, not just because it’s an excellent film, but because it addresses some very real issues that we experience on a daily basis. What is love? What does it mean to be responsible for someone else? How crippling is obligation? How deep does the power of forgiveness run? Fences leaves you with a certain heaviness as you leave the theater, which is also a nod to the Wilson’s amazing work and Denzel and Viola’s ability to give it the life it deserves.
In short, go see Fences. You won’t regret it. Take tissue. You’re welcome.