Movie Review: “Fences”
Fences tells the story of an African-American man named Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) living in the 1950s. Troy had hopes of being a pro-baseball player. Unfortunately, racial discrimination has prevented him from acheiveing that dream. Instead, Troy knew he had to provide, so has worked all his life as a garbage man. He has barely been able to support his family, but he has always done what he must to make ends meet.
Troy is now a middle-aged man, struggling to deal with his difficult life. He is long past his dreams, and has a justifiably bitter view of sports and the American dream. His father issues and his bitter view of the world have impacted his relationships with his wife (Viola Davis) and his children. His life has warped him into a passionate, but bitter man that his family is forced to live with.
The Pros & Cons
Long and Slow (-7pts)
Heavy Story (+10pts)
Denzel Rants (-4pts)
Last Few Scenes (+5pts)
Troy's Mistake (-3pts)
Pro: Acting (+10pts)
Before I mention the incredible acting by the two main cast members, I want to mention the side characters and their performances. Mykelti Williamson was absolutely phenomenal in this film. I do not want to spoil the character for anyone who wants to see this movie, but Mykelti played a very complex and entertaining character. Though whenever I see him in a role, a part of me wants him to start listing the various ways you can prepare shrimp. Another great performance was by Jovan Adepo who played Troy's son. There were some heavy, dark, and intense scenes involving this character that Jovan captured brilliantly.
Now I do not think I need to mention how incredible Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are, so know that they both brought their A-game to this film. They both subtly capture the weight of life and lost dreams. They each also have incredibly impactful scenes that remind you (in the event that you have forgotten) of how talented they both are. They portray vulnerability so passionately that it is hard to look away. 2016 had some great performances, but both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis deserved Oscar recognition for this movie.
Con: Long and Slow (-7pts)
This movie was showered great acting. Unfortunately, with the great acting came long monologues for the actors to sink their teeth into. This made the movie feel very slow. They were strong performances, but they made the movie feel long and uneventful.
You will walk away from the movie remembering its better moments, but the movie really could have been thirty minutes shorter. I can't think of anything specific that I would cut out (aside from Denzel's rants, however I will get into that later), but everything could have been tightened up and condensed. The movie just felt like it was a reasonably short script that the filmmakers stretched out as much as possible. The end result was a movie that had interesting characters, but a lot of boring scenes.
Pro: Heavy Story (+10pts)
I kind of mentioned this earlier in the review, but this movie is heavy. It is all about life and how difficult it can be when you have missed out on your own dreams. More than just missing out on your dreams, but letting your dreams go for a mediocre life, all because the world of baseball (your dream) did not accept you due to the color of your skin. It is all about Troy feeling unfulfilled in life and how he cannot do anything about it.
We see how this man copes with his uninteresting fate, and he does not handle it well. We then see how Troy responds when his son aspires to play baseball. Troy is filled with regret over what he has done with his life. He feels like he has wasted it and it is something Troy struggles to live with. The premise, coupled with Denzel Washington's performance, gives real weight and made for a compelling story. The side characters also have heavy stories, my favorite of which was the character played by Mykelti Williamson. I do not want to get into the details, but it was captivating.
Con: Denzel Rants (-4pts)
I think Denzel Washington is a great talent and I already said he deserved Oscar recognition for this role, but wow does he ramble a lot in this movie. There are a few scenes (specifically in the first half of the film) where Denzel Washington had these long rambling monologues. I will be honest, I like a movie that has scenes heavy and good dialogue, but this felt like overkill. He rambled on, and on, and on about baseball and about stories from his youth.
I am not going to lie, I zoned out a few times despite my best efforts. The movie was able to bounce back after these scenes and was able to recapture my interest, but man were these scenes a struggle to watch. It was just that the long ramblings were not all that interesting. He was just rambling about his past but there was little weight to any of it. He used to be a great baseball player, we get it. He is filled with regret over never fulfilling his dream, we get it. Did we really need multiple, long monologues to get those points across?
Pro: Last Few Scenes (+5pts)
There were a few scenes at the end of this movie, that served as an epilogue of sorts, which went on for about ten or fifteen minutes and wrapped everything up in a cool way. I did not expect the movie to end this way but, for a movie as emotionally heavy as Fences was, I think an ending such as this was necessary. We got emotional closure with this family and it worked for me. Troy, despite his many issues, has severely impacted everyone in his life.
He was a unique, damaged character, but his family loved him anyway. The ending of this movie served as a way to redeem the character of Troy in the audiences’ eyes. Troy did a lot in this movie that audiences will not be on board with, but the ending of the movie was all about unconditional love. This made the audience see Troy’s flaws while also sympathizing with the difficult life he has had to live. The filmmakers delivered a slow paced film, but the ending was strong.
Con: Troy's Mistake (-3pts)
I am going to be as vague as possible here to avoid spoilers, but Troy did something in this movie that severely hurt his relationship with another character. The reason I had issue with this, was that it was something he had done awhile ago that he is only revealing now and it really felt like it came out of nowhere. They had been hinting at something like this throughout the movie, but the reveal was way more severe than anything I could have assumed. It really came out of nowhere, and I would have liked to have seen a scene where the screw up happened earlier on in the movie. That would have added more suspense leading up to the reveal, and would have made for a much more dramatic scene when he finally does reveal it.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
Fences was a heavy and dramatic movie with fantastic acting across the board. The movie was essentially carried by the quality acting because the movie was also long and slow. Without these great actors, this movie would have been a struggle to get through. It had its problems but, in my opinion, its pros definitely outweighed its cons. I definitely recommend checking out this movie as it showcased the incredible talents of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. However, it might be a movie better viewed at home when you can pause it and take bathroom or drink breaks, because of its length and slow pace.