Anytime they grace your screen, the star power of both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis is obvious. In a sea of actors and actresses, these two are undeniably bonafide movie stars, the type that transcends time back to the golden age of Hollywood. Their presence is, without a doubt, captivating. So, when Denzel steps behind the camera, as well as in front of it, for the film adaptation of the August Wilson play Fences, of which both he and Davis did over one hundred Broadway performances, well, you’re led to believe that you’re about to watch an absolute clinic in acting and gravitas, which it most certainly has.
Fences is the story of Troy and Rose Maxson, an aging couple in the 1950s. Troy is a career garbage man and Rose is a housewife, who has raised her now teenaged son Cory under the strict rules imposed by overbearing father Troy. The family is struggling to come to terms with the changing landscape of the evolving world and the slowly shifting views on race relations. This includes Cory’s opportunity to play football with the other white players, something that causes a rift between father and son, as Troy believes it is a set up for failure, commanding his son to focus on a career rather than “pipe dreams.”
With the caliber of acting in this film, especially from the aforementioned top two actors, Fences looks like a home run of a film from the outside. About twenty minutes into this almost two and a half hour film I was constantly checking the time. Seeming like a long monologue without a break to breathe, this film felt very much like it should have stayed on stage rather than be adapted for film. It’s not at all interesting to look at, save from a couple obvious symbolic shots. As far as cinema beyond performances go, Fences had nothing for me.
I must hammer home how great Denzel and Viola are in this film, very worthy of all the acting award buzz they are receiving but the overall caliber of the final movie, to me, greatly depreciates their worthiness of taking these awards home. I literally couldn’t wait for this movie to end and if I hadn’t had to review it, I would have walked out early on into the film. No matter how much I respect Denzel’s body of work and love seeing him chew scenery and deliver lines with such power and stature, I couldn’t bear the constant barrage of Troy’s stories, his hobbling of his own son and the general unlikability of Fences as a whole. I’m kind of at a loss to why this movie was made in the first place but judging by the critic reaction, I may be in the minority on this one. 1.5/5