Thursday, June 3, 2021

#2,579. Fences (2016)

Films based on plays can, at times, feel “un-cinematic” and stagey. It takes some mighty strong performances to keep things flowing at a decent pace, and with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starring in Fences, a drama inspired by August Wilson’s stageplay about a working-class family in 1950’s Pittsburgh, you have two of the finest actors of this (or any) generation at the helm.

Troy Maxson (masterfully portrayed by Washington) works as a garbage collector to support his family, wife Rose (Davis) and teenage son Cory (Jovan Adepo). A headstrong individual, Troy is a larger-than-life figure, and over the course of the movie we learn enough about him to convince us he’s an exceptional man (a former baseball star who came from meager beginnings, Troy also keeps an eye on his mentally backward younger brother Gabriel, played by Mykelti Williamson, a veteran who suffered a severe brain injury during World War II).

But Troy has his flaws as well; he did time in prison for robbery, and is far too strict with Cory, pulling the young man off the football team for failing to keep his job at the grocery store. Before long, we learn something else about Troy, a secret that, when revealed, threatens to tear his family apart.

This is when Viola Davis takes center-stage. Content to remain in her husband’s shadow for years, Rose is suddenly forced to deal with a reality she never expected, and it’s more than she can bear. In one extraordinary scene, Rose stands up to Troy, letting years of pent-up frustration flow through her. Davis won an Oscar for her performance here, and in scenes such as this one you’ll see the award was well-earned. No actress delivered a better performance in 2016 than Viola Davis.

The supporting cast - including Williamson, Adepo, Stephen McKinley Henderson (as Jim, Troy’s co-worker and best friend) and Russell Hornsby (who plays Troy’s older son from a previous relationship) - is also solid. But Fences belongs to Washington and Davis, and these two powerhouses make the most of it.

Forget stagebound… Fences is positively electrifying.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Don't Miss It!)

No comments: