The Incredible Performances of Fences

I saw the film Fences last week and was extremely impressed by the performances. The film itself is very good, but doesn’t compare to some of the other great films that were released this year. The performances might be the best of the year though. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are incredible in every scene they are in. Washington and Davis actually played the same characters on Broadway when the play had a revival in 2010. They both won Tony awards for their Broadway performances, and their mastery of their roles really shows in the film adaptation. The emotional intensity they bring throughout the film is extremely impressive and I’m very glad that they were both recognized with Oscar nominations.

The film is an adaptation of the play by August Wilson. It tells the story of Troy Maxson (Washington) and his family. Troy is a garbage man in 1950s Pittsburg. He is very disillusioned with American society after his very impressive baseball career never took off because of segregation of the Major Leagues. Much of his disillusionment is taken out on his son Cory (Jovan Adepo). Cory has earned a scholarship to play college football, but Troy doesn’t want him to accept because of the way his sporting career panned out. In a long and extremely impressively delivered speech Troy tells Cory “I owe a responsibility to you, I ain’t got to like you!” This is one of many confrontations that Cory and Troy have throughout the film. The speech shows Troy’s attitude and lack of trust toward society. Troy tries to impose this attitude on Cory, which leads to several arguments, the last of which actually turns physical.


Viola Davis plays Troy’s wife Rose. She is a loyal housewife that puts up with Troy even though she strongly disagrees with the way Troy behaves towards Cory. Rose reaches a breaking point though when it is revealed that Troy has been having an affair after 18 years of marriage and the woman is pregnant with his child. Davis gives by far the most powerful speech of the film, full of genuine tears, that tears at your emotions as she tells him she has given her whole life to him and this is the way he has repaid her.

The film is also directed by Denzel Washington. I think this makes his performance even more impressive. The film captures the feel of a play where the actors are confined. In all the confrontation scenes there is a strong sense of claustrophobia. The film expands the setting, but not in a way that at all hurts the powerfulness of the dialogue. August Wilson passed away in 2005, but is given sole credit for the screenplay. Wilson was nominated for a writing Oscar. The beauty of the writing combined with the magnificent performances makes this film great. I was really blown away by the acting in this film and am very glad that both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis have been recognized for their unbelievable performances.

This review goes into more detail on the Broadway performance and the making of the film.

-Walker Rise

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8 Responses to The Incredible Performances of Fences

  1. I love that you chose to review this film, even though I haven’t seen it yet!! I actually sat in on a conversation with David Gropman, the production designer for Fences. Your take on the stellar performances combined with what David had to say about the design process are both excellent reasons for me to go see it.

    Fun facts: the tree in the backyard that the baseball is hung from was actually transplanted here–it was the ‘perfect tree’ so they cut it down from a forest, dug a hole in the ground, and plopped it there. Also, the house where Viola’s character lives was actually abandoned so they had freedom to make the interior exactly how they wanted :)

    -Kelly FitzGerald

  2. mediaphiles says:

    From your description to me it feels as if this is the typical American Father son sports story. We all know this story so well the father never made it and pushes the son to unbearable limits to give him a chance at something the father always wanted. We see in this in the movie He Got Game with Denzel as well. From your description it seems as if it is a great watch. Not surprised by the phenomenal acting Davis and Washington are both top tier in the performance department. On the other had without seeing the movie yet I feel as if the affair adds a great twist on the American family sports story.

    – Dez Wortham

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I really want to see this movie. I have seen the theatre production for it, but I have yet to see the movie. Personally, I love Viola Davis and Denzel Washington, so I’m not surprised that they both produce an outstanding performance. Viola’s monologue in the trailer when she says, “well, I’ve been standing with you is just heart-wrenching. I hope to catch it while its in theaters before the Oscars premiere.

    -Shelby Halliman

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I read the play version of Fences back in high school and it grew on me! I have not yet seen the movie but I hope plan to see it soon. The play was a masterpiece but I have heard from a few that the movie did not do it justice, but your review seems positive! I cannot wait to see the father son relationship in action.

    -Maddie Turner

  5. mediaphiles says:

    I am glad you took the time to articulate why the film should be nominated for Oscars this year. Admittedly, I found the trailer and plot line to be boring, and chose not to see it in theaters. Now, however, I feel as if I have to see it!

    Katherine Naylor

  6. mediaphiles says:

    I definitely want to see this film.. It is an interesting take on an athlete’s failed journey which unfortunately happens too often, just because only a few can make it pro. I think this film with its great acting would be fantastic to watch.
    -Jordan Hansgen

  7. mediaphiles says:

    If anything I’ll have to see this film for the amazing performances. I had no idea Denzel Washington was the director, and I’m even more interested in seeing this film. I also had no idea it was an adaptation of a play, and the fact the Denzel Washinton and Viola Davis have already played the roles so well makes me want to see it even more.

    Russell Lawrence

  8. mediaphiles says:

    I’ve read this play before, and was a bit skeptical to see it be made into a film. It seems very dependent on the acting and is set in a small scale. If these performances are that good, though, I have some interest in seeing it.

    -Jake Fallin

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