with Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson.
Based on the play by August Wilson.
That the original work was a play made me yearn for the distance an audience gets, the view of the set at all times, and the actors’ relationship to that. In the movie, so often, the camera closes in on someone and forces us to focus on the face instead of the words.
Viola Davis and the other actors are splendid, especially Jovan Adepo playing his son Cory, and Stephen McKinley Henderson playing his friend, Bono. All of the minor characters are acted perfectly.
I am glad that I saw this movie because I had always meant to watch August Wilson’s work. But I wanted to out of duty rather than pleasure which is something I look for in a work of art. And there is little pleasure to be had in Fences. It is relentless work, to consider how ugly racism has shaped many of our finest men, how it is still reigning among us, and how it can twist a man into bitter anger.
The title of the play hints at what the Negro League star was swinging for when he came up to bat. Troy was a great baseball player who went on to work in the sanitation department picking up people’s garbage. His wife, Rose, is a compassionate woman, tending to the needs of all around her, including Troy’s brain damaged brother.
When August Wilson died, he was in the midst of writing the screenplay for Fences. He had insisted that only a black director could direct it. Denzel Washington who plays the lead, and is a very fine actor, with an accomplished career in front of the camera, is directing for the first time. He uses too many extreme close ups, giving the impression that not only are the characters shouting at you, but the director is too.