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  • "Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in."

    The first thing movie-goers should understand about Fences is that it is very much a filmed play. An adaption of August Wilson's Tony- winning play, director Denzel Washington has kept the project as minimalist as possible. There's good reason for this. Wilson's words are exciting enough that there is just no need for big action, large sets nor grandiose cinematography. Fences is a small, intimate story about Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his close-knit circle of family and friends. This small cast of characters is used to speak volumes about how far the Black community had come in overcoming prejudices by the 50s-era the story takes place in, but how far they still had to go. It talks about the roles of husbands, wives and children; the sacrifices we all make to support each other, often giving up our own dreams but never losing sight of them.

    Much has been said of the performances here, and with good reason. They're terrific. Viola Davis will get her Oscar this year, there's little doubt in my mind. Her Rose Maxson is so reserved and subtle for much of the film, allowing Troy's continual imperfections and abuses to store inside her and chip away at her emotionally until the final straw causes her to erupt near the final act of the movie. It's an emotional and painful performance to observe, and one many, particularly long-time wives and mothers, will find easy to relate to but at times difficult to watch.

    As for Washington, I find it difficult to understand why he isn't the front-runner for Best Actor this year. I've seen front-runner Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester By The Sea and it is excellent and look forward to Ryan Gosling's turn in La La Land; but what Washington does in Fences is special. Simpy put, it's one of the best performances I've ever seen an actor give. Troy is a very imperfect man to say the least. He's not necessarily a "bad guy", in fact most men will be able to see a little of themselves in Troy. He's a likable personality who does some despicable things. HIs tough love approach to raising his son seems more out of spite than love. And while there can be no doubt that he loves Rose, his behavior proves that love and respect are not the same thing. Washington crawls into this raw and complex character, becoming Troy to the extent that no matter how big a star Washington is, you forget you're watching an actor.

    The supporting cast fairs well, particularly Stephen Henderson as Troy's friend and work-mate Bono, Jovan Adepo as his son Cory and Mykelti Williamson as his mentally-challenged brother Gabriel. Everyone seems to be working their hardest to do Wilson's words justice, and their efforts result it what may be the most overall well-acted film of the year.

    Fences won't appeal to everyone. Those looking for action and extravaganza, this is not your movie. But if you're like me and enjoy watching good actors perform a well-written script, then you'll be enthralled by every minute of Fences.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    First let me say that this is a powerful, engaging film. Seemingly, however stereotypical, the opening of this movie feels like a stage play exposition. Although moving forward I found myself increasingly involved in the life of, to me, a thoroughly selfish, almost despicable, protagonist. Denzel Washington inhabits his role as one would fit into a perfectly tailored suit. The depth of his character fits him like a glove. The dislike of his "Troy' is palpable. It is Viola Davis' performance that gives us any acceptance, and even a modicum of empathy, for his unrelenting dis- likability. Her 'Rose' is a tour-de-force and one of the most honest performances ever put on film.

    I personally see it as less a film about a man coming to grips with prejudice than as a damaged child trying to make sense of a world over which he was unable to reconcile his life. In the greater scheme of things, yes, he had a menial job, but he did have a job. He has a family that he treats as possessions rather than people. When his son accuses him of not wanting him to surpass his father in life, there is a validity to the claim.

    The direction, cinematography, music and period feel, with the exception of an uneven opening, proves Washington a masterful film maker. The difficulty in adapting a stage play to the screen is almost overcome with only a few scenes playing like a filmed stage set.

    If it were up to me both Denzel and Viola would receive the top 'Best' academy awards with Denzel also receiving a nomination for best director. Unfortunately the stiffness of the script, in my opinion, should keep it from a best film nomination (although it will probably get one). As a side note, it seems silly for Viola Davis to be entered into the competitions in a supporting category. She is the strength of the movie and in too many scenes to even be considered 'supporting.'
  • If I hadn't known what Fences was going in, I would have been able to tell before any color hit the screen. In a second before the vibrant world of Fences fades into view, the astute theater-goer will recognize the fast-paced almost narrative cadence of two characters talking as lines written for a stage play. Fences is an adaptation of August Wilson's 1987 play, a part of his Pittsburgh Cycle. It won the Pulitzer Price for Drama in as well as the Tony Award for Best Play, repeating this with the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2010.

    We're not venturing into mere trivia either, as that revival starred Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (both taking Tonys for their acting). Not only do both reprise their roles in this film, but Denzel Washington directs. This probably explains why Washington puts in such a theater-like performance. For him, it must have felt like stepping into old shoes with very little desire for change. As I alluded, those accustomed with the stage will recognize and probably even like the kind of performance that at all times demands audience attention, as on stage, you have to do exactly that. In movie form, some might confuse it for scene-chewing, but either way, it gives his character a larger than life affability. As is said in the movie, his ability to fill a house could apply as much to his small house in universe as it could to a theater house. It goes a long way to explaining why in the end, these characters have such a strange respect for a man who is such a heinous character.

    If it seems like I'm only praising Washington's performance as relatively good, that might be because he shares the screen with Viola Davis. Davis's performance is not only more suited for film, a medium she has taken by storm lately, but it's also transcendentally fantastic in its own right. In one pivotal scene, Davis's character pours her heart as the actress pours tears and snot down her face. It's not many movies that I can leave and think, boy, we really should have more snot in our films. When it comes to movies, I like to think of myself as an everyman. I approach the Oscars with a sort of double-speak. There's the film that should win (Moana), and there's the film that should win and has a chance (Hell or High Water). In a rare moment of finding these opinions in concert, I could only describe the possibility of Viola Davis not taking home the Best Actress Award with one word: ridiculous.

    Denzel Washington certainly doesn't need to feel upstaged. While August Wilson wrote the screenplay himself before passing away in 2005 (a little uncredited work was done on it by Tony Kushner, who settled for a co-producer credit), it's still no small feat to take something designed for the small stage putting it on a film screen. A while the film is still more than a bit obvious, I think Washington really did as much as he could to make it as a good a movie as it could be. There are few real scenes and constant talk, but there's just as much constant motion. Characters walk down a crowded street, transition through the house, come in and off screen organically. It gives a similar effect as if a long scene was done in take. But none of this would matter if it weren't for the impeccable set design. Taking place in the actual Hill District of Pittsburgh that was so important to Wilson's stories, the recreation of the 1950s feels almost too alive. The back alley where the eponymous fence is being built is very reminiscent of the set of Rear Window, perhaps smaller in scale, but feeling no less lived in.

    Fences is a film built upon quite a pedigree, but what is it about? I believe that Fences is a story about masculinity. In the film, masculinity provides. It helps you ensure that get what you are owed. But masculinity also takes. Troy Maxson (Washington) is an old man obsessed with what he believes the world owes him. The world owed him glory in sports. The world owed him a better profession. A better standard of living. He even believes that the Grim Reaper owes him life. Even though there are legitimate arguments as to why he never obtains these things, we can still say that they are fair wishes. But as the movie progresses, we see that when he tries to take the things he's owed, he doesn't necessarily think about who he's taking from or what they are owed.

    Due to its strict adaptation, Fences is extremely dense in its amount of talking compared to other films. The depth this gives to its characters and sheer literature value certainly goes a long way to cement Fences as one of the smartest films of the season. But I have to be a little self-aware and recognize that as a source of entertainment, Fences probably appealed to me mostly as a man who enjoys the stage. Others might not be as indulgent with it as I am.
  • I would give this film a good 7.5 out of 10 stars. I read some mixed reviews about this film and I'm on the side that says it's good, a bit long for what it was trying to deliver, but good. This film didn't need all of the thrills or heavy duty suspense to stay afloat. With brilliant and top notch actors like Denzel Washington and Viola Davis playing the leads their performances alone will make this film something worth seeing. Being that this film is from a stage play it's almost as if this were just a stage play done on a movie set, that's probably why it had so many bad reviews but I think the director (Denzel Washington) wanted it that way. This is purely a drama film delivered well by some of the most brilliant acting I have ever seen. I must admit, it does take a little while for the story to get good but it's well worth the wait. If you're into drama filled experiences with lots of symbolism and good acting I highly recommend this film.
  • This film is about a man. A man who carries the burden of generations of hardship, who couldn't fulfill his own greatest dreams because of the oppressive context in which he lived and who tries to close himself off from the world with fences. Tragically, in closing himself off he loses site of the changing times, he boxes his loved-ones in, and he creates an oppressive environment that emulates everything he tried to guard against. The timeless question lies within this story (adapted from a Pulitzer winning play) is: can we hate a man like this? Or, when we consider his circumstances and trials, is he a hero to admire?

    It's worth seeing and is worthy of praise. If not from the acting (particularly Viola's), from the captivating and poetic screenplay. Every word uttered seems calculated by the mind of a genius.
  • julia-0015720 February 2017
    I didn't like this movie as much as I expected to. Sorry. The movie centers around Troy Maxon (Denzel Washington), a father to two boys of different mothers, a husband to Rose (played wonderfully by Viola Davis) for the past 18 years, an ex-con, a garbage man, and above all, an ordinary black man in the 1950's.

    No doubt it was a powerful script that most likely created an incredible play but it was not meant for the screen. It was obvious that it was a play, in the way they spoke and entered a room and carried themselves in a scene. I, of course, have not seen the play so I cannot speak with 100% certainty but I feel like the script wasn't adapted for the screen at all. It's not like it needed any major changes, just a few here and there to improve clarity. The passage of time confused me throughout. A scene would end and it would be the next day, then a minute passes and it abruptly jumps to six months later with no indication. This could be a statement on how his life passed quickly and routinely, but it felt like a swing and a miss for me.

    Viola Davis was wonderful. She deserves every award coming her way. I could sing songs of praise about how magnificent she was. 10/10 for her. Beautiful.

    Denzel Washington was certainly egging for an Oscar as he did what he did, but that's not degrading his performance. He did do good, but it was a bit distracting when he stole the show and didn't really let the other actors bounce off each other and him as much. It was all about him.

    Even though I constantly found myself criticizing this movie, I did like it. It had a magnitude that I cannot explain, otherwise I would've given it a much lower rating. I recommend this if you are willing to. I will warn you, it is tough to sit through a movie with no one to root for. Washington's character is not a good person and very unlikable, you don't really want to cheer him on.
  • bobbyparkfilm17 February 2017
    The acting in this film is outstanding. Denzel and Viola are truly at their best and the consistency with which they convey the depth of emotion required of them in this film is outstanding. To me, this was the best part about the film. It was a little difficult to sit through this one, mostly because it is a movie in which not much happens. Don't mistake this as a comment from someone who loves action-packed movies (although I do sometimes), but rather it plods along and neither has very high highs or very low lows. As such, I drifted in and out of the story and was still able to keep up. It is important story to tell, but I can see how it was potentially better as a play. It is definitely worth seeing, if nothing else for the superb acting.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Greetings again from the darkness. Just about any use of words you can think of serves some part in this screen adaptation of renowned playwright August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony award winning stage production. It first hit Broadway in 1987 with James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in the leads, and the 2010 revival starred Denzel Washington and Viola Davis – both who reprise their roles for the movie version. It's also the third directorial feature from Mr. Washington (The Great Debaters, Antwone Fisher).

    The story takes place in mid-1950's Pittsburgh and is a family drama character study centered on patriarch Troy Maxson (Washington), a former Negro League star and ex-con, who now works days on a garbage truck before coming home to his wife Rose of 18 years (Ms. Davis) and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo, "The Leftovers"). The Friday night after work ritual finds Troy holding court in his backyard with his best friend and co-worker Bono (Stephen Henderson), as they share a bottle of gin and pontificate on the injustices that have landed them in this place and time.

    Another regular Friday occurrence is the drop-in of Troy's son by his first wife. Lyons (Russell Hornsby) is a musician who shows up on payday for a "loan" from dad. To say there is tension between the two would be an understatement, and it's the complex relationships between Troy and everyone else that is the crux of the story. Another player here is Troy's brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), who periodically wanders by talking about battling demons and hellhounds. See, Gabriel suffered a severe head injury during WWII and now has a plate in his head but no real place in society.

    Troy is a proud and bitter man, unwilling to acknowledge that the world is changing. Instead he holds firm to his belief that the white man will always hold back the man of color. It happened to him in baseball (though actually he was too old by the time Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers) and he refuses to believe Cory can succeed in football despite his being recruited by a college. Troy jumps between charming and caustic, and his fast-talking bellowing style can be entertaining, enlightening, condescending and intimidating … sometimes all of the above within a few sentences.

    There is magic in the words of Austin Wilson, and as a film, this is a true acting clinic. The performances keep us glued to the screen in each scene. Denzel is a dominating presence, and the single best moment belongs to the terrific Viola Davis. Her explosive release conveys the agony-of-the-years, the broken dreams, and the crushing blow of broken trust. As a viewer, we aren't sure whether to stand and applaud her or comfort her with a warm hug. The only possible criticism might be that the stage roots are obvious in the film version. The theatrical feel comes courtesy of the sets which are minimal and basic with no visual wow factor. But this minor drawback only serves to emphasize the characters and their interactions.

    It's pointed out to us (and Troy) that fences can be used to keep things out or keep things in. During his pontificating, Troy uses a couple of phrases more than once: "Living with a full count", and "Take the crooked with the straight". He often waxes philosophical, and it's through these words that we realize both he and Rose took their sense of duty and responsibility so seriously that they both lost their selves in the process. Making do with one's situation should not mean the end of dreams and hopes, and it certainly gives no one the right to hold back anyone from pursuing the path they choose. While watching the actors, don't miss the message.
  • Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name by The Late/Great August Wilson, 'Fences' is a film that boasts Fabulous Performances from its terrific cast that Shine undeniably, but the film, as a whole, is overlong! Also, the narrative gets repetitive after a point.

    'Fences' Synopsis: A working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.

    Denzel Washington directs 'Fences' with a realistic feeling & the film legend is absolutely terrific in the central role. As Troy Maxson, the protagonist, Denzel is firebrand, delivering a performance full of feeling & frustration. But the film belongs to Viola Davis, who steals the show. Davis, an absolute acting pioneer, is priceless as the wife, offering a portrayal of loyalty, motherhood & heartbreak. Davis is sure to win Awards ahead (Already Having Won The Golden-Globe recently), yes Academy, I'm talking to you! In supporting roles, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Saniyya Sidney & Mykelti Williamson lend remarkable support.

    Now coming to the minuses! The Screenplay works in parts. Considering its been adapted from a play, the writing sticks to its true roots a bit too much. The locations remain the same & the literal translation becomes monotonous after a point. Troy's bitter attitude towards his Sons & his Wife's sacrifices, don't engross you beyond a point. The Writing needed to be crisper. And the film is overlong! At a 139-minutes, 'Fences' overstays its welcome by at least 20-minutes. I wish the narrative was stronger, as it begins beautifully.

    So what's the final word? 'Fences' is greatly acted, but as a film, it's a disappointment!
  • 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.
  • Denzel Washington is clearly one of the best actors we have ever had, African-American or otherwise. Whether it has been in serious, sober-minded films like GLORY, MALCOLM X, and COURAGE UNDER FIRE, or explosive action films like CRIMSON TIDE, MAN ON FIRE, and UNSTOPPABLE, Washington has given all of himself, and then some. And then, like more than a few great actors, he also itched to get behind, as well as in front of, the camera as a director, which he did in 2002 with ANTWONE FISHER, and again in 2007 with THE GREAT DEBATERS. He does double duty again for one of the most insightful and true films of 2016, FENCES.

    Scripted by noted playwright August Wilson from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, FENCES stars Washington as an average Joe-type sanitation worker in late 1950s Pittsburgh dealing with the world at large. He had been a baseball player once before World War II, but it never amounted to much; and when one of his sons (Jovan Adepo) wants to get into football while going to college, Washington tries to steer him away, managing only to alienate his son further than he already is. Washington does have a good friend in Mr. Bono (Stephen Henderson), but he is still troubled by a dark park of himself, one that threatens the eighteen-year marriage between him and his wife Rose (Viola Davis).

    Adapting stage plays to the screen is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, because what works on a stage needs a great deal to transfer it to a movie, and a real, breathing set. Fortunately, Washington found a way of making it happen by filming in a part of Pittsburgh that seems not to have changed all that much from the way it must have looked in the actual time that FENCES is set. Wilson's stage play and screenplay are full of language and slang that is very right for the times, and, yes, this does include a profuse use of the 'N' word. But a certain amount of uncomfortable language is what is necessary for a story like this, especially given that it involves not only Washington on both sides of the camera, but also another hugely superb performance by Davis as his wife, who manages to somehow stand by her man despite the horrible secret he reveals near the end. Equally fine in supporting roles are Adepo and Henderson, as well as Mykelti Williamson as a former war buddy of his whose mind isn't right because of a severe head wound suffered in the war, and Russell Hornsby as Washington's son by an earlier marriage who constantly comes to his dad on payday for ten-dollar loans.

    Though it is an African-American cast and story, FENCES works because it feels universal, and it is a story that could happen in any family, regardless of skin color or ethnicity. Washington and Wilson (who passed away in 2005, and thus never saw FENCES make it to the big screen) make this very clear but in a non-heavy-handed way, and with dialogue scenes that are often long but never dull, earning it justifiable and favorable comparisons to Arthur Miller's classic "Death Of A Salesman".

    All of these elements make FENCES easily one of the best films of 2016, and a sure-fire winner likely to be regarded as a classic in a very short time.
  • sonjabermail14 November 2017
    Fences, the late August Wilson play adaptation, is a movie with universal messages about life, love, family, parenting and black identity. It shows the hardship of life in a common Africanamerican family set in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and the margins of society. It carries a universal message about a disappointed father, who wants to protect his teenage son of life disappointments. Haunted by his inner demons, Troy Maxon fails to show real love, instead we see his harsh personality towards his son and his wife. Too many disappointments in the past have led him to shut off his emotions towards his family but still remaining human and adopting his extramarital child. The movie depicts a society put on the social margins, fighting everyday issues and marital problems but giving us a ray of hope about complex family relations and a young generation respecting their parents. The masterful performance of Denzel Washington and Academy awarded Viola Davis brought this universal play to the screen, giving the viewers a real movie gem and a show calling for their emotional responses and a deeper introspective in their own personal relationships.
  • I really looked forward to this film , the trailer was excellent and set up what looked like being a good drama . But honestly the fire exit sign was more exciting , I found myself constantly comparing it with what was on screen and trying to assure myself that the film was more watchable but it wasn't .

    This may work well on stage with a single set , but what on earth did they spend $24m on , yes there was an authentic looking late 1950s Pittsburg but one of the adjoining house to Rose's was brand new !

    Her Oscar was well deserved and there was some good acting by the supporting cast particularly his brother Gabe and young daughter . He was such a despicable character that took out his failure on his son that spoilt the enjoyment . It was the son's strength that brought some salvation.

    The film was an hour too long , far too much dialogue delivered at breakneck speed , it needed better adaptation to the screen and script editing and more than anything it shouldn't have even been released

    Give it a miss , save yourself 2.5 hours of looking at the inside of your eyelids !
  • I attended Fences with full intention of writing a review. It's a hobby. You can sit down, start a piece, and finish. No one is paying me, I don't slog through a dozen revisions, or listen to an editor. And the reward is there, akin to a conversation with a close friend before even exiting the theater. The best are better and the disasters are suddenly goldmines.

    But sometimes the words are dead on the page. Out of habit, I scratch out X00 uninspired words without insight, perspective, or anything that could possibly appeal to anyone. See Fences, draft one. An obviously very good movie that was equally obvious not great. What a spectacular thesis. So I trashed it. Time passes. I allow myself to read some reviews. Every critic compared Fences and source material in a lazy attempt to animate their own lifeless reviews. Excuse the metacriticism, but this mediocrity will not stand.

    Fences is originally a Pulitzer Prize winning play. The sixth in playwright August Wilson's "Pittsburgh Cycle," Fences was revived in 2010 starring the same faces in the film, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. It won a fistful on Tonys. I did not know any of this going in, and I shouldn't have to. The film stands on its own.

    Fences is a character driven piece with little plot. The universe revolves around patriarch Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), former Negro League star, now garbage man. Troy is an eloquent speaker and captivating storyteller. Good thing, because 90% of the film are his conversations, mostly expressions of deep frustration. Troy's primary salvation is Rose (Viola Davis), a devout, but infinitely strong wife. Together they have a son Cory, who seems to have a promising future in athletics. Troy is wary of such success because of what little professional baseball provided him. Troy forbids Cory's pursuits, an act beyond his son's comprehension that leaves an irreparable rift. Another troubled relationship is between Troy and his eldest son Lyons. Lyons is in his early 30's with a love of music, but without direction. Separated when Lyons was young, Troy outwardly treats Lyon more like a parasite than a son. A final anxiety is Troy's brother Gabriel. Permanently addled by war, the veteran wanders the street with a trumpet waiting for judgement day. Troy acts as caretaker, but it is Gabriel's assistance that payed for the home. Overwhelmed, we learn from friend Bono (Stephen Henderson) that smooth talking Troy is turning to another women for relief.

    Seasoned cinephiles can spot adaptations a mile off. Wrought with narration? Fair chance the movie was once a book. Same principal, different guidelines for adaptations of plays. First giveaway, dialogue heavy script. Second, limited locales with action primarily restricted to a single setting. Fences is a prime example of both points. Now these obstructions might bore some audiences, especially those who have never found live drama compelling. Worth mentioning, but the film is still not the play. One essential difference is the camera. In Fences, the camera is quiet, but never static, influencing the viewer in a way that should not be underestimated. A close up cannot be replicated on stage. If little old me knows that, so do the makers of Fences, but they're not resorting to such obvious devices. Critics might have loved an extreme close up or more long takes. In Fences, camera actions exist to highlight the performances. That's what the story calls for. When the takes do get longer, with the perspective slowly spinning around the back yard, that invisible camera dominates your attention. Failing to notice this manipulation is like never seeing strings in a puppet show. The puppet master did their job. Those complaining that Fences never escaped the shadow of the play went to the show hoping to see strings.

    Maybe we all missed the opportunity of a lifetime not taking a trip to New York and missing Denzel Washington and Viola Davis act this material live. Can't say, but I was happy to catch them in the movie theater. Chalk it up to nightly rehearsals on Broadway, this pair of performances establishes Fences as one of the best acted films of the year. And Troy Maxson himself, that character is an avatar of an agony beyond race, one that film rarely explores. Fences the film is a success. That should be all I need to say.
  • In "Fences" Denzel Washington plays Troy – a bitter, self-centred and selfish man in his mid-fifties who loves the sound of his own voice. They say "empty vessels make the most noise" and here is a case in point. Set in the early fifties, race plays a strong card in every aspect of life, and Troy feels betrayed by a failed baseball career that – in his eyes at least – looked over his skills to the colour of his skin. But Troy is also a stubborn cuss, and refuses to acknowledge that even in the 50's "The times they are a changing'". His cussedness puts him on a collision course with his teenage son Cory (Jovan Adepo), given his aspirations for a college football scholarship, and his mother (Viola Davis, "The Help") tries to keep the peace between the two of them.

    This is a film primarily about resistance to change. All those changes in the outside world are on the 'other side of the fence' that Troy habitually tries to finish but never seems to put his mind to. Fences keep things out; but they also keep things in, and Troy is in a cocoon of his own making. He justifies his actions as a 'family provider' with lengthy speeches but ultimately they deliver hollow words and assertions that don't stand up to scrutiny.

    This is a pressure cooker of family life that is primed to blow, and a revelation (which I didn't see coming) sets that fuse alight.

    This is a film worth watching for the acting performances of Denzel Washington and (particularly) Viola Davis, winner of the Best Supporting Actress BAFTA and a strong contender for the Oscar. Both give assured performances, although Troy is such an instantly dis- likable and pitiable character that I could feel my emotions influencing my judgement about his performance.

    But this is also a strong ensemble cast, with Mykelti Williamson (famously appearing as Bubba of the 'Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory' fame) being effective as Troy's disabled brother and English-born Jovan Adepo being particularly impressive in an extremely assured feature debut.

    However, the Broadway roots of the piece are highly visible with 98% of the film set either in the back yard, in the house, or on the front steps (the set could clearly rotate!). For such a claustrophobic topic, this is perhaps apt. But as a feature film I longed for the action to go elsewhere. The film version of the story – with a few tweaks to the screenplay – has lots of opportunities for this, but these are never taken. This makes the whole piece feel 'worthy but dull'. In particular, anyone looking for a useful tutorial on fence building needs to look elsewhere!

    As for the recent "Moonlight" there is also excessive use of the "N" word and other outdated racial references that have the potential to offend.

    Good luck to Viola Davis and Denzel Washington (who also directed this) for their Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor Oscars nominations. But "Best Film" Oscar? No, I don't think so. In truth this is a film that I will struggle to remember or get excited about in a month's time and it will not be on my re-watch list.

    (This review was written just prior to the 2017 Oscars. For the graphical version, and to comment, please visit bob-the-movie-
  • Their is a reason why the Oscars has an award for best adapted screenplay. Adapting a story from one piece of media to the next is an art in it of itself. The writer has to take the story, that was based around the limitations of the media it told, and put it in a new media that different set of challenges. What happens if the writer simply copies word by word from one platform to the next, you get Fences.

    The main problem with fences is that there is just there is just too much information being told per scene. Characters have so much dialogue that it is hard to keep up with the story. Audiences will get so overwhelmed by the dialogue, that they're bound to miss some information and that information can be important to the plot.This will might cause confusion. The play can get with all this because the actors are speaking directly to the audience and the audience is actually seeing the actors. This means that audience will have a better sense of the emotional context of the story and dialogue, but in a movie that context is lost by the fact that they're staring at a screen.

    This is too bad because everything else in movie is fantastic. This movie has some of the best acting I have scene in cinema. The set design really makes audiences feel a sense of lost hope. Even objects have character based on what they represent on the story. The movie seems to love symbolism and it is certainly powerful.I just wish their were more setting in this movie. The majority of the movie only takes place in one house. That can get boring because while the set is interesting it is only one set, and that can lose its charm.

    If you like great acting and willing to put up paragraphs of dialogue then see this movie, but if can't put up the long,unnatural ,and fast dialogue with less than four setting then don't see this move.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie was one of the most boring I've EVER seen in my life. It had absolutely no point to it whatsoever. All I saw was people standing in the backyard most of the movie talking about not much of anything. What made it even worse was the fact that the main character was completely self-centered and didn't care about anyone but himself, but all of the characters are urged to show this man respect when all he was was a walking selfish jerk. 2 hours and 13 minutes of a plot less movie where the audience must endure over 2 hours of watching Troy do everything wrong and still be looked at as a great man somehow. I just wish I could get my $12 back along with those 2 hours of my life I lost.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Review (with Spoilers)

    Noted Actor(s)

    Troy (Denzel Washington) | Rose (Viola Davis) | Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) | Mr. Bono (Stephen Henderson) |Lyons (Russel Hornsby)


    When a boy is forced to become a man at 14, his life is basically trial and error. Such is the case with Troy Maxson. This boy, one of eleven, left home ventured out and only found trouble. Made a baby in the process, found a woman after he paid his debt to society, and then was on the straight and narrow. However, men get old. Women get old too. There comes a point where find yourself looking around at all you have, all you have obtained through purchase or loyalty, and ask is it enough? Is it enough to have a wife and two healthy boys? Is it enough to have a husband, a good relationship with your stepson and a healthy one with your own? Is it enough to have a girl who sticks by you and a dad who, after giving you some lip, will loan you money. Is it enough to have both parents in the house if one seems to treat you like an obligation when it comes to caring for you? We are told fences are made to keep things, or people, in or out. But it may just be possibilities too we are trying to keep at bay.

    Things To Note

    Though initially upset by the idea of Viola Davis not going for the Best Actress nominations, with her role basically being part of softening and redeeming Troy, it makes sense for her to go for Best Supporting Actress. Even if she is the only woman we ever see.


    It's a Lean Production

    Though over two hours, with things mostly focused just on Troy and Rose, featuring some comic relief from Gabriel and Mr. Bono, this is a tight production. In fact, based off not having the privilege of seeing the play when Davis and Washington were in it, you could argue this is almost as direct of an adaptation you could get. There is no extra fluff, some spare characters whose place don't seem like they were in the original blueprints. Everything which needs to be a part of this story to tell it right, it's here, well oiled, and in working order.

    Mr. Washington and Ms. Davis

    With that said, let's talk about the two main characters. Now, prepare for theatrical dramatic/comedic monologues a lot. Nearly half the time Washington speaks it isn't to have a conversation but to express the inner workings of Troy. Why Troy acts the way he does, why he did this stupid thing, him explaining why he wasn't in his oldest son's Lyons' life. In many ways, his role seems like it is straight from the stage, nothing changed but now he doesn't have to turn to the audience but just look in the camera. But, as much as he may get dramatic and bring tears to your eyes, maybe even think of the relationship you have with your own father if it isn't some ideal sitcom type, he is funny too. Though there ain't a review for it here, it reminds me of watching Joe Morton in Let Me Loose. For every sob story, there is a joke somewhere in between. Reminding you things have gotten somewhat better since then so no need for your pity. While things may still look hard, and certainly Troy may not have a white man's privilege, at least he isn't out on the streets homeless and alone.

    As for Davis, oh boy. I question sometimes when actors talk about being intimidated by the presence of another. Could it be that serious? Yet, as Davis performs against Washington, you begin to understand an actor's fear. Hell, a writer's fear of doing this woman justice. For while I can't recall a single role when Davis wasn't playing someone who is suffering, that is her bread and butter. So, with that, seeing her go against Denzel and really make it seem she has him on the ropes. The man who this play is centered around, it was something. She made you tremble as that one snippet about how Rose has been standing there with Troy gets expanded. As you come to terms with your own standing in life. What compromises you make for certain relationships to continue and how there has to be a point where you got to wonder if it is a compromise or have you given yourself over and only gotten the other person's burdens in return. Burdens you have no idea what to do with besides try to untangle only to find the other person makes knots after you thought you were done.

    The Peace of Being Simple

    A small thing I think worth noting is Gabriel. Like Rose, she is what helps humanize and shape Troy. But, separate from Troy, it is also nice to see a character like Gabriel who maybe simple, but he is not stupid. For while, at times, he seems like a comic relief, it is through him we get some of the most touching moments. Especially the ending.

    Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)

    A film which makes you think, reflect, and feel. I don't feel like I watch enough of those. So when films like this come along, it is like cleaning your palate. It is like, being reminded of what a quality drama can be, and how from the old to the young, it isn't unfair to expect every character to make an effort to not just connect with you but to make you feel something. Now, I might not have cried like I thought I would, but damn if this doesn't put some perspective on your life, maybe your daddy's life, and make you contemplate on your way home what you going to do about your life.
  • kenny-629948 January 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    This film is so boring. Love denzel washington but this as got his worst film. Great acting as usual but the film is boring, defo not a 7.8 rating. A lot of fast talking and shouting but thats about as good as it gets #yawn. If you stay awake alway through this movie you deserve a medal. I don't recommend it to anyone. Probably the worst movie i have ever seen which is ashame really because i do love denzel Washington. If you do want to see it i would wait until it comes out on netflix or sky movies. Don't waste your money at the cinema you will probably be disappointed. The movie takes part mainly in his house and back garden.
  • Did someone say "Last year's Oscars were too white" ? Now that we're starting to hit awards season I'm starting to hear everyone in the media say this . I don't want to stir up any controversy , and I don't know about you but when I watch a movie I watch simply as a rabid cinephile . Three thousand eight hundred reviews on this site back up my credentials as someone who may actually watch too many movies . Likewise check out my review of SPOTLIGHT which I described as a weak contender for best picture and I was speaking as a hardcore anti-theist . I was disappointed as I was shocked when that movie beat THE REVENENT to the big prize . In other words I tend to leave politics , religion and other baggage at the cinema door and judge a film simply as a piece of stimulus . FENCES however gives me the impression it's going to be over awarded simply because some people think they'll be righting all the wrongs of the world by giving it prizes . Of course it won't affect my life one way or another but even so let's be honest and say this is a fairly tedious movie

    Let's have a look at the performances . I've seen such adjectives as "Brilliant" "phenomenal" "great" and every hyperbolic word you can think of . The truth is the performances are over-wrought , over-done and over melodramatic . Most people seem to think acting involves emoting an entire spectrum of mannerisms and gestures . I disagree . Great acting is subtlety where the actor becomes a character and even a small understated expression can convey a lot to an audience . I'm afraid I was constantly taken out of FENCES due to the actors being what can only be described as being "too loud"

    FENCES is based on a play written by August Wilson . I'd never heard of either the play or the playwright who wrote it but within a couple of short minutes of the opening sequence I did realise I was watching something based on a source that belongs in another medium . The film itself is very static and talkative and never escapes its source which is probably down to director Denzil Washington . 12 ANGRY MEN is based on a play effectively filmed in one set but the drama involved there has an almost hypnotic effect over the audience . I did notice much of Wilson's dialogue has an existentialist element to it but all this gets drowned out in the performances and double negatives

    So a rather tedious film on the whole with the only real positives Marcelo Zarvos's score and Charlotte Bruus Christensen's muted cinematography . In fact the cinematography is the only thing in the movie that comes close to being muted
  • bigdmag29 December 2016
    I usually love his movies, but this ones a bust. Wonderful acting by all, but drags and drags and drags and drags, much like this sentence. Yippie Denz can memorize 2000 words and banter back and forth with his fellow actors. Nothing but dialogue for the 1st hour with nothing, going nowhere. I literally droned out for large chunks of the movie, he talks so fast and so much I just couldn't stay focused on any part of it. This was not just me feeling this way. My mother wanted to leave after 30 minutes and on the way out the couple in front of us were debating on what place it was going to be on their "worst movies ever list". I heard "we should have going and seen Rogue One" by a group that was behind us.

    This movie has some great acting, but it takes more than that to make a great movie. This one does not measure up. One of the most boringly paced movies I have ever seen. Do yourself a favor and wait till it comes out on Netflix so you don't feel violated by spending good money on it.
  • louisson5 January 2017
    "The New Yorker" says that this based-on-a-stage-play movie itself is somewhat stagy. It's far more than that. It begins on a fast treadmill with Denzel Washington talking non-stop for about the first 20 minutes; others can barely get a word in edgewise. I actually put my hands over my ears to mute somewhat the annoying patter. So much for personal reaction. As a critic I think the dialogue problem is twofold: (1) The text itself is stilted--typical Broadway drama trying to sound like the way blacks talk (e.g., like I hear them in the YMCA locker room), but it has no rhythm, no lilt, no naturalness--there's a "Broadway formality" about it; (2) neither Denzel Washington nor Viola Davis sound at all natural with the text--no rhythm, no style, stiff--they sound like they're reciting a text. In fact, they both played in the 2010 Broadway production--they still sound like they're on stage instead of before a movie camera.

    Not only is the dialogue stagy, the camera work and direction (Washington is the director too) are extremely stagy. I was constantly conscious that I was sitting there watching a movie rather than getting lost in the story itself; I could practically hear the director saying, "Move here. Get that clever shot from the ceiling there. Etc." It felt mechanical and poorly edited, without the flow and grace of a MOVING picture.

    The problem with this film is Denzel Washington himself. According to Lauren Chval of Redeye (whose article was printed not once but twice in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle), author August Wilson insisted that a black man direct because he could bring "cultural literacy" to the film. Fair enough; the problem is that Washington did a lousy job of it. Washington also worked with Wilson on adapting the script to the film; he did a lousy job of that too. Based on this movie, Washington should stick to acting because here he is in sore need of direction as an actor, of a good script adapter, and of a good director who knows how to take a camera and turn a stage play into a MOVING picture.

    For the first 30 minutes, Washington does practically all the talking, non-stop, as if on a verbal treadmill. I began saying to myself, "Will you shut up? Shut Up! SHUT UP!!!!" In all honesty, I walked out after the first half-hour. I know how the story develops; I just refused to endure the torture of getting there.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film is a great example of how exceptional writing can rivet an audience.

    It's based on a play, I understand. For anyone as unfamiliar as myself, the easiest way to describe it is as being very reminiscent of Death Of A Salesman. It follows in that long line of stories about Patriarchs crushed under the weight of their own psychological implosion, King Lear, the Old Testament's Nebuchadnezzar and so on.

    The quality of the writing is such that, by focussing on the psychology of one man and his own life, and its impact on his family, it makes you think about your own life and certainly your relationship with your father. It's called Fences, I interpreted this as the psychological fences people erect to protect themselves, fences which tragically keep those closest to you out.

    There was a little unevenness, the beginning seemed on the long side, but when the story steps up a gear, it seemed a little underdeveloped. But this is really a small issue. The writing pulls you in masterfully and exceptional actors work their magic with it. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis deliver master classes in power and nuance.

    I'm surprised that the IMDb description has it as being concerned with race relations. As far as I could see it had little to do with it and was instead concerned with the emotional faultlines of a family in a totally universally relateable way.

    Really worth it, go see it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In the new movie "Fences" based on an August Wilson play with the same name, lead actor and director Denzel Washington explores places with the film unexplored in the play.

    The story takes place in 1957 and depicts the daily life of an African-American family consisting of Troy (Denzel Washington), Rose (Viola Davis), Cory (Jovan Adepo) living in the city of Pittsburgh, playwright August Wilson's hometown. The struggles of their everyday life where Troy maintains his job as a garbage man, seeking a promotion, and Rose is the matriarch who's constantly going up for bat for their 16-year-old son Cory who has a promising future as a profootball player. An opportunity Troy is partially cautious of and partially jealous of. He himself sought a career as a pro athlete.

    Troy's guilt of using his brother, Gabriel's (Mykelti Williamson) insurance money from an accident for being his caretaker to buy the house for his family along with growing up with an abusive father and coping with the lack of moving forward in his life results in drinking and abusive behavior towards his son.

    The majority of the cast reprise their roles in the film from the play which they had acted in on Broadway. Viola Davis who plays Rose, won a Tony for her portrayal.

    During the first Los Angeles screening of the movie, the full cast was present to answer questions from Variety editor who moderated the event.

    Seven years ago, producer Scott Rudin send Denzel Washington a screenplay. "Wilson wrote a masterpiece. One of the great plays of all time….it's the gift that keeps on giving," Washington described the "Fences" play.

    In the film "Fences", "we get to see how Rose feels when Troy leaves. That wasn't in the play" said Washington.

    Viola Davis said the two things that Washington said to the actors before filming were, "remember the one" and "trust me." Davis said "he's got a bullshit meter. A lot of actors don't know what to say to you to bring it out." She said of Washington that he's a great leader and you can trust him.

    The young actor, Jovan Adepo, who plays Washington's son, Cory said he cried when he learned he got the role in "Fences." He said "it's a role you wait for and it's a blessing."

    In the first act, Rose points out to Troy to finish the fence, a project that he has been working on with son Cory. A fence, it's noted to either keep the ones Rose loves in, or a fence to keep others out.

    Full review at:
  • Saw an advanced screening of #FencesMovie tonight with the Minnie. I knew just by looking at the cast that this was going to be a new classic.

    Troy's (played by Denzel Washington) larger than life personality will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between. The film is truly heart-warming and very appropriate for the entire family. Full of morals, lessons, and life's hidden nuggets of gold, #FencesMovie will tug at your heart and make you appreciate your own family: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    After all, our family, or lack thereof, is what helps us build character!

    LaDana Drigo
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