I can't recall the last time I was so thoroughly disappointed by a movie... With a great trailer and premise, Oscar nods and a team to support it, Fences seemed to have everything to hit a home run. However, I was confronted with something I didn't desire. The source of the problem comes from a crude loss in translation, as Denzel forgets he can't just take what he did on stage and do it in an movie set with no alteration. The key word is adaptation and often that word entails evolution and most necessarily implies a deep shift. With a satisfactory soundtrack and cinematography, the film's demise is its script which is long, convoluted and has no sense of what real dialogue is all about. The most annoying thing was having to hear everybody often screaming on and on, throughout the movie's runtime. In a way, this kind of movie calls for a utilitarist script, i.e. you only present what's necessary. Now with a play, it's a whole different game as you can have a monologue driven play and there's some probability that the audience will enjoy it. If you don't remove what's unnecessary, all you have left with is yapping. And that's what i felt: I was sick of hearing Denzel yapping! The movie is so annoyingly filled with dialogue that there's no room for the scenes to breathe and there's no quietness to contradict the fuss. It's annoying to watch a movie that has an abominable disregard for one of cinema's golden rules: show, not tell. When we have the main characters spilling every single detail relating to at what point the narrative stands and exactly what's on their mind, you lose room for subtlety or innovation. It pains me that this has been nominated for best adapted screenplay, when it's obvious that a real effort of adapting the story is absent, instead being a copy paste of how the play should be structured. The film's best aspects are the two great performances, specially Viola's, who delivers a mind blowing one, rounded up with that crying scene that Academy voters are so keen on. Those are the two truly deserved nominations. For the rest, the movie isn't solid enough to be carried by the performances and the poor script and the fact that it's cut 40 minutes too long, makes it often unbearable to watch. I do not get all the love for this film and I don't think we should reward movies that are sequences of expected shots based on expositional, dialogue-heavy screenplays. If you do watch it, you'll watch it once in your life, more than that is cinematic abuse. Having watched all the main Oscar nominated movies, I can decisively say that this is one of the weaker offerings. I watched Arrival again yesterday, so... go with that!
In this PG-13-rated drama, a working-class African-American father (Washington) tries to raise his family (Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo) in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life. In our hyperlink-filled culture, there are far too many jumping off points before you get the whole story. The long-form has become abridged to accommodate short attention spans. This is not new, however. The works of William Shakespeare have appeared in a digest form pretty much since first hitting the screen. When Kenneth Branagh spent $18 million adapting the entirety of Hamlet into a 4-hour H'Wood film in 1996, the move seemed rather bold. A limited release kept the film from making a profit in theaters, but glowing reviews and awards soon followed. For much the same reason, Washington's latest turn in the director's seat deserves much the same response-if not more because his setting doesn't allow for as much latitude as the certain tale of a Danish prince. And, before any classics muckety muck gets heated with this review for comparing the author of Fences to the Bard, let them be reminded: When it comes to "The Pittsburgh Cycle," you compare Shakespeare to Wilson.
It has been said that James Joyce never wasted a single word or piece of punctuation in his career-every last character was carefully chosen and meant something. So too stands the work of Wilson, an always pointed, poetic, and meticulously crafted treatise on American life. Though the writer speaks primarily from the African-American perspective and experience, his beautifully written (though not always beautiful) characters voice a multitude of universal truths. Here, he gets sole credit as screenwriter and every beat of his seminal work remains intact. His Troy, Fences's protagonist AND antagonist, is both a defeated man and often a defeater of other men. His pro-baseball prospects derailed by a stretch in prison, he has survived the ebbs and flows of life, albeit not gratefully. Undeniably charismatic, he flashes moments of warmth. Unfortunately for those in his orbit, these moments come between long stretches of him tearing down his wife and son as he takes out his bitterness with life on them. He is the architect of his own destruction, of course, which makes this flawed character so rich and undeniably human. In his performance of Troy, Washington mines every possible nuance from a man who puts up so many emotional, ahem, fences. It's an electric turn made all the more electric by Davis' amazing role as his long-suffering but dedicated wife, Rose. These two actors perfected their characters' chemistry during a 2010 limited Broadway run, which makes for a dynamic synergy on screen. You believe every peak. You believe every valley. Other characters, such as Troy's mentally challenged younger brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), don't have quite the same impact on the screen as on the stage. Owing to the fact that the character does so much with so little, going big and loud (we're talking the theater space-not the actor, who does an excellent job) almost robs him of a powerful moment at the end. Also, some directors would have sprawled out the canvas to include more locations...to the detriment of the material, however. The definition of faithful adaptation, Washington's take smartly keeps the setting limited. In fact, save for a select number of scenes, the action rarely leaves Troy's property, which hammers home the point of a piece about barriers. Some filmgoers might call that stagey. This review calls it: the whole damn point.
To Sum it Up: Great Fences Make Great Viewing