‘Fences’ Review

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Directed by Denzel Washington

Written by August Wilson

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney

★★☆

“Fences” a film adaption of August Wilson’s play of the same name directed by Denzel Washington. Washington also stars in the film with Viola Davis, reprising their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival which garnered both actors Tony Awards. It is then no surprise that they are both frontrunners for the Oscar’s. Washington will be nominated, but will probably lose to Affleck for “Manchester by the Sea,” although he does pose serious competition to Affleck. Due to industry politics, they will likely campaign Davis for Supporting Actress, like for the Critic’s Choice and the Golden Globes, though she is clearly Washington’s co-lead. Davis has the Supporting Actress category locked up.

It should be clear by now that this movie is essentially an acting masterclass from Washington and Davis, who each give electrifying, magnetic performances. As previously mentioned, Washington and Davis were reprising roles that they had played six years ago, on stage, so these are characters that they knew well. This previous experience with these characters is apparent to the audience. It was as if they had lived these characters. The supporting cast also gave strong performances; they hold their own next to the powerhouse performances of Washington and Davis, not an easy task, at all.

Washington directs the well, although there are times where it feels like he is directing a play. There is something to be said when a movie feels like a play, but it is another when you direct a movie like a play. When your movie feels like a play, you limit the locations and number characters involved in the narrative, but the film is still directed like a movie. When directed a movie like a play you are making directorial decisions that while they work on stage, may not read well on the screen. Even with those trappings, Washington manages to deliver a film that is intimate and straightforward. There is something that comes from simplicity that is otherwise lacking in a film containing a more complex directing style.

“Fences” is a tour de force performance piece for Washington, for Davis and the entire cast. It is a film that is directed in a simple, yet effective style that works for what Washington wanted to achieve with his film. Ultimately, the film is about family and (for lack of a more appropriate term) legacy and all the trappings that come with them.

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