Saturday, December 31, 2016

Film Review - Fences

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis bring their tony award winning roles of Troy and Rose Maxson to the big screen as Washington also takes on the directing duties for the August Williams creation that's the central cog in the writers Pittsburgh Cycle of works. The film opens with one of the few scenes that's outside of the Maxon's family home and yard. Troy (Washington) and fellow rubbish collector Bono (Stephen Henderson) are working their route commenting on how there are no black drivers in the department. Troy has filed a formal complaint that's lead to a meeting at the Commissioners office that could result in him loosing his job. At home Troy is constantly at odds with his younger son Corey (Jovan Adepo) who has a chance at a College scholarship that Troy plans to thwart as his baseball dreams were shattered by the colour barrier and the fact that integration did not come to the Major Leagues until he had reached his 40's. Troy's also saddled with the knowledge that the family home is due to the benefit paid to his brother Gaberial (Mykelti Williamson) due to a WWII brain injury that netted him a metal plate. Lastly Troy's wandering eye with the females that has got him into trouble in the past has started up again in the opening moments of the film.

Denzel sinks his teeth, arms to the elbows and soul into this film. He delivers his lines without any effort giving the audience the feel that he is not playing a role but more greeting reacquainted with an old friend as he spouts the Troy Maxon Manifesto in his yard. Davis' Rose leads the rest of the cast along side the afore mentioned Henderson and Williamson as Bono and Gabriel. Washington seems more at easy on his third time out directing using a mixture of wide, circular, high and low angle shots effectively and to augment the action on screen.  August Williams screenplay being from a stage play is naturally heavily dialogue driven. The minimal amount of set locations does not diminish the production as it has in other stage adaptions to the big screen.

Washington's directorial eye is in step with cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen as they set the tone of a mid-50's lower class Pittsburgh neighbourhood in a few sharply shot scenes; the opening where we meet Troy and Bono riding on the back of a Pittsburg sanitation garbage truck followed by Gabriel's first appearance in the neighbourhood mocked by the local teenagers as he chases after Hell-hounds and calls out to St. Peter.  Christensen's work also puts a cap on a key scene at the end of the film that leaves the players jaw dropped by the visual.      

Fences is a superbly acted film featuring the best two male and female performances in any feature this year. The entire cast are at home with the material as August Williams words flow freely over the pieces 138 minute run time. The subject matter is tough, challenging and gritty but the acting and the screenplay inject several light moments to keep an up tone beat for a good portion of the proceedings. Denzel Washington has clearly found his grove as a director with this film featuring material that he knows intimately will backed by excellent set, cinematography and costume design working making it a film that I can highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

Fences | Denzel Washington | U.S.A. | 2016 | 138 minutes.

Tags: Baseball, Negro Leagues, Pittsburgh, 1950's, Sanitation, Affair, Marines, WWII, Mental Illness, Football, College Scholarship.


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