Review: Fences

Before this movie, I had no idea that Denzel Washington dabbled in directing movies. After checking his directing credits, I discovered that he has directed three films, all of which starred himself.

I think this is great: a talented actor who is also a talented director. He’s sorta like Mel Gibson… you know, the Mel Gibson that existed before everyone decided that the only sin a star can’t get away with was anti-semitism… anti-semitism and being a conservative.

Sorta wish they had the same policy about some other dark stuff Hollywood’s been known for.

 

Fences itself is a very solid movie. The acting may be the best of 2016. If Denzel Washington wins an Oscar for this movie, I would not be disappointed. But if anyone gets an Oscar for their performance, I hope it’s Viola Davis. This is hands down the best performance I’ve seen of hers. There’s a few key movies that I haven’t seen of hers yet, but it would be hard to top her performance in Fences.

In fact, there is not a single weak performance that this movie has. Every single character does exceptionally well with the material they are given.

 

This movie relies extremely heavily on dialogue, and the vast majority of scenes take place in one setting. After a while, I felt like the film felt very reminiscent of a Broadway play. It wasn’t until after I did my post-viewing research that I found out that it was a play initially starring James Earl Jones, but later redone with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in 2010. The two, along with many other people in the play, got back together to perform it again for the big screen.

 

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The dialogue in this movie is well above average and is extremely organic to all the characters speaking the lines, and the single-setting often made the movie emphasize its trapped feeling; this is certainly not a feel good movie by any stretch of the imagination.

 

In fact, the movie frequently made me feel extremely uncomfortable because Troy (Denzel Washington) is an absolutely toxic and unlikable character (but at least the movie acknowledges this). The story centralizes around him and his friends and family, but every single friend and family member is more likable than Troy is.

This movie seems to serve as a character study of a sociopathic man who has grown hardened by all of the grief the world has given him, and how this affected his family.

 

<SPOILER-ish>

However, when there are character studies like this, with a character who is soulless, it usually works out better in the movie when that character sees some sort of redemption. This doesn’t happen to Troy. There are some good qualities about him, sure, but he is largely defined by how hateful he is to his family. He cheats on his wife and then asks her to take care of his illegitimate baby once his mistress dies. He stifles and intimidates his youngest son. He belittles and accuses his older son constantly and shows no interest in his passions for music. He refuses to admit his mentally ill brother to a hospital so that he can get the treatment he needs, thus prolonging his instability. He does all of these things while blaming everybody for his problems aside from himself.

And since there’s no point where Troy finds redemption, the movie merely serves as a spectacle of all of the destruction lying in his wake. In that, it’s his family who must find redemption, and even then, they seem more defined by the scars that Troy left for them after he died.

</SPOILER-ish>

 

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Aside from the compelling performances and the great dialogue, there isn’t much more to harp about this movie. The cinematography was good for the most part, but there were at least three different moments where I caught the movie having a lower resolution, and the picture became more granulated. I tried to think of a reason for this, but based on all the shots that were guilty of this, I could not find any purpose for it.

 

There really isn’t a soundtrack for this movie either… there are a few moments with music that are solely used to amplify emotional moments, but that was about it. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a movie based on a play that probably had no music for it in the first place, but it did feel a little weird almost never hearing any.

 

Fences is a movie that boasts some great dialogue and some absolutely amazing performances from Denzel Washington and especially Viola Davis. The movie is heartbreaking and uncomfortable. If you love character studies, great acting, and good dialogue, then I would highly recommend this movie.

But the scope of who would like this movie stops about at that point… Fences never really has too much to say except for placing a spotlight on what happens to people who fall victim to the sins of their parents. There’s very little hope in this movie and very little redemption, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad movie. I certainly enjoyed the movie, and it was well worth my money, but I doubt I will ever want to see it again, and I’m giving this movie a 7 out of 10.

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