When you pair up Denzel Washington with Viola Davis on screen, you know you're in for two of the most outstanding performances you'll see all year and that's exactly what you get from FENCES. That said, if only director Denzel Washington and his crew could've figured out some ways to lessen the stage play feel to it and make this seem more cinematic. But then again, breaking out of that format is indeed usually the challenge when dealing with straight up adaptations from stage plays, just like "August: Osage County" a few years ago.
Scripted by August Wilson, adapted by Wilson's own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Denzel Washington plays an African-American father struggling with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s. He's still bitter from his doomed baseball career in the past, blames it on the white man, so when his son tries to get into sports, he discourages him, telling him that the white man wouldn't give him a single opportunity out there in the field. Denzel's character's wife, played by Viola Davis, faithfully stands by his side despite the secret that would change their family forever.
Story-wise, it doesn't get more well-thought out than FENCES, it's dialogue-driven, it's performance-driven, this material is every actor's dream come true because it has so many layers and it provides room for you to showcase the best version of your chops. We know Denzel and Viola Davis are phenomenal, but FENCES allows them to venture into places and show us shades that may not have been seen before. And I'm sure it feels liberating for all the actors involved in this film to just dig deep down, tap into those emotions and lay them bare for the world to see, and there's no wrong way of doing it.
The conflicts in FENCES are powerful, like a fist through a wall. Nuances surround the characters so you end up understanding where they're coming from despite being in agreement or disagreement with many of their decisions. To a certain extent, I think Quentin Tarantino and Aaron Sorkin fans would find FENCES appealing since each of the characters has incredibly long lines that run like 100 mph. Marital affair, resentments, built up hatred, forgiving your past, there's no shortage of drama in FENCES, its cup overflows. But again, as I said earlier, I think there's a missed opportunity here, the film just didn't do enough to make itself appear cinematic. Composer Marcelo Zarvos' music is almost non-existent. Forget the backseat, many of film's elements are practically locked up in the trunk.
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