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.