August Wilson wrote his first play “Jitney in 1979, but it was “Fences” that put this Pittsburgh born playwright on the map.. “Fences” received a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award in 1987.
August Wilson pieces are legendary and extremely revered in the theatrical and African-American communities. So, it was no surprise when “Fences” was revived in 2010 earning lead acting Tonys for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
How gloriously thankful that this holiday season “Fences” has finally made its way to the big screen, giving us “the performances of a lifetime” from its stars.
Recreating their award-winning roles, Davis and Washington are masterful as Rose and Troy. Set in 1950’s Pittsburgh, we watch the demise of a family unit for a variety of complex, yet familiar reasons. Troy (Washington) constantly relives his days from the Negro Baseball League with the realization that his life as a sanitation worker are less that what he dreamed for himself and his family.
Yet, in spite of it all, Rose (Davis) still sees the man she fell in love with, However, as the story progresses, Rose slowly realizes how “that” man has somehow ceased to exist, despite her efforts to shower him with all the love a wife and mother can muster. Viola Davis has a scene that will break your heart and remind you why America has fallen in love with this American treasure. After all some people build fences to keep people away and others build them to hold on tight to what they have. Is Rose’s “fence” strong enough to keep Troy?
Denzel Washington does double-duty taking on the massive task of directing and does so beautifully exhibiting a cinematic style that will be copied from many aspiring filmmakers. He stays true to the vision of August Wilson by keeping it all simple and tasteful. I’m just gonna put it out there to say it would be nice to see him make history by taking home the gold in the directing lane,
Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson – all from the 2010 revival also bring their solid characterizations to the screen where the lens make them all even more powerful and heartfelt.
Mykelti Willamson plays a challenged man better than anyone I know. Remember him from “Forrest Gump” and “Waiting to Exhale”? Well, as Tory’s mentally impaired brother, Gabriel, Williamson will leave you with a lump in your throat every time he hits the screen.
Jovan Adepo as Cory holds his own very effectively with Washington in one of the film’s most powerful scenes reminding one of what a parent’s real job is when it comes to their kids.
Lighting up the screen with a quiet fire energy is a young Saniyya Sidney (Raynell). Her future is so bright it literally burns my eyes.
An August Wilson play veteran, Stephen Henderson as Bono reminds you of those relatives that talks much noise and always got somewhere to go…but not really. He’s a delight!
It was very refreshing for me to watch a film where one has to concentrate on the dialogue and the characters. No special effects, no CGI, just content. Kinda like back in the old Hollywood days, when the most elaborate thing about the features were the costumes and set design.
Produced by Denzel Washington, Scott Rudin and Todd Black, “Fences” will be released by Paramount Pictures on Christmas Day. It’s a must see for sure.