FENCES (2016) – My rating: 9/10

fencesI heard Fences was somewhat theatrical, which it was and after seeing it, I also found it was a little slow. At times, I felt I watching a play but a very well written and a very well acted play. Never having read August Wilson’s play, I didn’t know where this story was going. Then all of a sudden, it took a turn for the better. I sat up in my seat and any boredom and any bad thoughts I harbored about having come to see Fences disappeared. Suddenly, excitement and intrigue entered the story. My emotions were coming into play and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Was I dreaming or was this really happening? Was this boring, straight, hardly off the beaten path, Black man now full of sass and controversy with an exciting story to tell? Is he really standing here before his wife saying what I’m hearing?

Fences takes place in the 1950s and tells the story of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) who lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Rose Maxson (Viola Davis) and their son Cory Maxson (Jovan Adepo).  Fences is a story about a Black family with many stories of how they got to the point they have gotten to with the convictions, hopes and dreams for their future and their child’s future. Troy and Rose along with Troy’s brother Gabe Maxson (Mykelti Williamson) and their child try to make it in a world that makes it extremely hard for them to just exist and live normally. Troy works for the Department of Sanitation as a garbage collector along side his best friend, Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson). However, Troy wants to be a driver like the White man and wonders why that position is excluded from the Black man. Thinking he is about to get fired for speaking up, Troy gets quite the surprise instead. From here we meet Troy’s estranged son from a previous relationship, Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby), who infrequently visits his father to borrow money, which upsets Troy, since he’s not on board with Lyons choice of occupation as a musician.  In addition, Troy’s son Cory wants to play football, which Troy is also not on board with since he feels Blacks can’t make a decent living in the NFL either.  Having played professionally in the Negro Leagues himself, he believes he was passed over because he is Black and not because he was too old for advancement.

Fences goes on to tell the stories that define Troy and the decision making that go into shaping his brand of raring his son and dealing with his handicap brother as well as his profound feelings of love and marriage that make him who he is today.  It also mentions the fence Rose asked him to build around their house, many times.  Having survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth, Troy claims to have done so by defeating the Grim Reaper in a fistfight, upon which the Reaper vowed to return for a rematch. The titular fence is conceptualized by Troy as a symbolic way to keep the Grim Reaper out, but is also representative of the emotional barriers he built between himself and his sons as well as Rose’s effort’s to protect the people she holds dear.

Of course I have left out the most exciting parts of this story and urge you to go see an extraordinary classic you won’t soon forget.  Denzel and Viola really were brilliant and it’s a story that’s worth knowing about.  It goes places you would not have imagined.  Check it out!

{BTW, Viola Davis won the 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture,  for Fences!}

 

[FENCES is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay]

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