Fences is the story of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), a black man who is a garbage collector living in 1950 Pittsburgh. He once had a career in baseball, but due to the color barrier having not been broken, he wasn’t able to fulfill his dream. In fact, Troy is actually bitter that Jackie Robinson broke down the barriers too late to allow him to have a fulfilling life. Because of this bitterness, Troy takes out his anger on his wife (Viola Davis) and son (Jovan Adepo) by making their lives miserable. Troy makes it sound like he does it out of love and to teach them the ways of the world, but it only comes across as a controlling, ego-driven, asshole who wants everyone else to suffer simply because he is.
Directed by Denzel himself and adapted from the award-winning play, Fences is a simple concept with plenty of emotions running loose. As the scenes go by, the character of Troy becomes a bigger monster yet, for some reason, he has his family under his spell. They allow him to continue to be the man he is while he prevents them from being who they want to be. He won’t allow his talented son to play football. He won’t loan out $10 without a long speech. He tells his wife that she is the best thing that has ever happened to him yet sees other women on the side. He keeps his power by being an emotional bully and never allowing the people around him to fully express themselves. His older son constantly asks his father to come see him play his music down at the clubs and Troy refuses every time. He thinks he is great and everyone around him is nothing.
Fences is the kind of movie/play that is well-written, powerful, emotional, memorable yet when it is all over, you will never want to see this movie again. For me, I wanted it to be over after 1 hour. This movie is a pure drama with very little moments of happiness. Being over 2 hours long, I don’t see how the average person will want to sit through this constant stress-inducing movie. I wouldn’t. I didn’t even want to do it the first time. I wanted to get up and leave after a pivotal moment, but I stuck with it for this review. I hesitate to call this movie a tragedy, but it sure is close. Over the course of cinematic history, 12 Years a Slave and Schindler’s List are 2 movies that come to mind that offer high praise with tons of horrific drama, but these movies I would recommend people watch at least once. I’m not comparing Fences to the tragedies seen in those other films, but Fences is the kind of movie asks the question, “Who wants to watch this?”
The quality of Fences (and most plays for that matter) is in the performances. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give us performances that carry the weight of the movie. Even if the situations and choices in the movie are not favorable in 2016, you can’t help but acknowledge the talents of these actors. They are powerful and special and they make you forget they are actors playing parts. The true test of great acting is when the audience loses touch with the actor and sees them for the character they have become.
At the end of the day, you can’t deny that Fences is something well-made and full of talent, but once you sit down and start watching, Troy makes the 2 hours miserable. We see movies for many reasons and entertainment is one of the reason for me. I understand sometimes stories are used to send statements, messages and share emotions, but I don’t know who out there sat through this and felt glad they did. I see the quality in this movie but I can’t recommend this movie unless you are fan of these 2 actors. Sorry. Co-starring Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, and Saniyya Sidney.
5/10 Stars – The acting, setting and production are all top-notch and powerful, but the emotions poured out over this story are so negative that I can’t think of anyone who would be happy they watched this.