Sunday, December 25

Review: Fences

Fences puts Denzel and Viola at their best!
With a lot of plays, even great ones, the transition to film can be difficult. And it’s usually not because their narratives aren’t strong enough for the medium, but because the very nature of a play- from the script, staging, and acting methods applied to the overall viewing experience- is meant for the theater and the theater going audience. To translate it for the screen can sometimes mean taking away from the very qualities and artistic details that made it so great on stage to begin with, in an effort to appease the larger format and audience.

It’s a fine line to straddle for a director as well as the entire cast and crew. If you veer too much towards keeping a play a play on screen then you risk negating the entire purpose of turning it into a film to begin with (and might as well have just recorded the original play and sold it on DVD/VOD/streaming). But if you veer too far away from it you risk losing the essence of the original script and soul of the play, which could cost you both your original and new target audience. But when done right, a film adaptation can add new depths, clarity, and texture to a play’s original narrative; delving further into characters and details, all while retaining the original excitement and intimacy (a huge part of most stage productions and easiest part to lose in adaptation) of a play. Other times, they can try too hard (or not enough) and risk a film that is either too pedantic, melodramatic, or just simply inept. Remaining faithful to the narrative while taking advantage of the new medium is a balancing act.

“Fences”, in my opinion, gets it right! Based on August Wilson’s award-winning 1987 play, the film centers on the life and struggles of fast-talking, working class, African-American father, husband, and garbage collector Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his family in 1950s Pittsburgh. The proud and overbearing patriarch of his family, Troy’s complex and compelling personality and relationships with his family are the driving force of the narrative. Washington’s obvious passion for the project shines through compellingly in both his roles as director and star, as it does for the rest of the small (almost entirely) pulled-from-the-Broadway-play cast. From Viola Davis’ fierce performance as stronger-than-you-realize matriarch Rose to Mykelti Williamson’s heart winning and award worthy portrayal of Troy’s mentally disabled brother Gabriel.

The film opens up the setting and parameters of the play while still managing to hold on to the intimacy and character connection by never minimizing but, in contrast, maximizing the focus and weight of each performance. As Davis said in a recent “60 Minutes” interview, “people say everything in film is small. Every moment is small. You gotta play it small. Sometimes moments are not small.” And no moment in this film is. From the dialogues to the monologues and all the places in between. Though some may see it as a bit too stagey in the beginning, the theater-like emphasis on the language and performances keeps you intently focused on every word and action. With an almost musical quality, the entire film has a soul and rhythm that never gives you a chance to tune out. “Fences” leaves no room for passive viewing.

A faithful and successfully compelling adaptation, the “Fences” film delivers August Wilson’s play for a new generation with the reverence and justice it commands!

5 out of 5

What would I have changed? (Spoilers)
Click here to read what I would Change
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Liz Liz (Contributor) is an ardent cinephile from West Philadelphia. She enjoys all genres and generations of cinema and has a particular love for independent and foreign films


25 comments:

  1. This was a very good movie. Good acting from Denzel and Viola!

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  2. I loved this film and is one of the best transitions from stage to screen. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are fabulous. No other way to describe them. Both of these folks are strong actors and played off of each other perfectly. I laugh, I cried, I felt their joy and I felt their pain. Mykelti Williamson was outstanding as Gabriel. All of these actors gave academy award performances. This is a wonderful movie that should be seen in the theatre.

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  3. Good :) seeing this Thursday, hopefully.

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  4. Yea you will like it, but the run time is long.

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  5. Right, I saw that. Did you see it? I will be in the Canton area on Thurs. and Emagine Canton is only $5 for a matinee recliner seat, which is nice.

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  6. We didn't see it. You will be checking your watch a few times lol.

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  7. I watched this last night and I'll say that it was an okay movie. The acting and casting was good but I'm not sure the story was worthwhile enough to put it on the big screen..

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  8. I have to check this out this weekend! Denzel is one of my favorite actors.

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  9. i love Denzel and like Viola Davis, although i do not like her tv show. has a great cast.

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  10. This was a great movie. Fantastic acting

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  11. Meh; I didn't really care for it. While the acting was fantastic; the storyline was incredibly slow. Everyone was falling asleep during my screening.

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  12. The best movie overall for 2016!!

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  13. Can't wait to see this. Love anything with Denze

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  14. 'Fences' is extremely underrated. It has the best acting out of any Oscar bait-y movie released this year, and it has the best adapted screenplay. If 'La La Land' gets the Best Picture Oscar and not 'Fences,' I will NOT be a happy camper.

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  15. Was like a play brought to the big screen. Good acting and we'll done.

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  16. Hi Liz! I did not see that quote from Viola Davis before, but she is right. I saw this play on Broadway many years ago with James Earl Jones and am very psyched to see this film. Maybe Viola Davis will get taht Oscar that she should have gotten already!

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  17. Amazing review!!! I want to see this movie and even more so after the review!

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  18. Lissette Morales-NievesJanuary 7, 2017 at 11:13 AM

    Well written & well acted. Oscar nomination for best actors & picture should be awarded.

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  19. Such an incredible play that had been around for ages that has been translated into a oscar worthy movie. It has so much emotions in the movie makes you feel like you're part of it. Highly recommending this movie for those who love these actors or the play itself!

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  20. It would be beyond deserved!

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  21. Loved every part of this movie...the message and the way the actors portrayed it was amazing.

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  22. Like the movie. Denver did a get job. It did look like you were watching a play especially at the beginning of the movie but I still liked it. Like plays.

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  23. This is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Very well acted and very well produced!

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  24. LISTEN UP - Ok, Denzel and Viola are really good in Fences BUT, Mykelti Williamson's performance as Archangel Gabriel is the anchor of the movie. We are "sposed" to believe that Gabe is a tad bit touched but I found him to be insanely "sane", if you know what I mean. I loved Gabe as Denzel's (Troy) gentle, caring brother. Give Mykelti (Righteous Apples) some credit.

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