Adapted for the big screen from a Pulitzer-prize winning play, “Fences” is sure to win some awards of its own. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both give stunning performances as they bring to life the August Wilson play.
The movie tells the story of an African American man, father, brother, and friend, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), as he weathers the ups and (mostly) the downs of life. Set in the 1950s, Maxson finds that racism, poverty, and family values, among other things, stand in his way. His wife, Rose (Viola Davis), stands alongside him and helps him along his way. Though his relationship with his sons are strained, he cares deeply for them, along with his good friend Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson).
The actual plot is not as important as the thought-provoking dialogue peppered throughout the film. From lines such as “some people build fences to keep people out, some people build fences to keep people in,” to “death ain’t nothing but a fastball on the outside corner.” the movie’s dialogue is rich with philosophical thought. Also, the movie tackles large social issues like race, family values, and mental health.
One of the biggest conflicts between Troy and his son is football. His son was recruited by a college team and is eager to play. However, Troy was a baseball star in his prime but denied a shot at the MLB because of his race, refused to let his son play. Rather he wanted his son to find himself a profession he could use throughout his life, which would be untouched by racism.
Also, his wife of 18 years, Rose, expresses her concern about having children with different mothers, which Troy had done. “And you know, I never wanted no half-nothing in my family.” Rose explained here that she didn’t want to see her children have half-brothers, sisters, or mothers.
The play also hits on the problem of mental disorders. Troy’s brother, Gabriel, had been injured in a war causing a permanent mental disorder. Afterwards, Troy had to take care of him. There was thoughtful conversation about taking care of him and how they should go about that.
The movie itself doesn’t have much original content, but nonetheless, these topics are still important in our country. Denzel Washington, the lead, also directed the film, though the work behind the camera was short of exceptional.
In 2010, both Washington and Davis did “Fences” on Broadway, only to win Tony awards for it. Why not do the same play on the big screen and win an Oscar?