review by Bobby Blakey
There is no denying that Denzel Washington is one of the greatest actors around, but he has dabbled in the director’s chair as well. Sadly it’s been years since we got Mr. Washington taking on double duty in front of and behind the camera, but his latest Fences is about to change all that. Can this stage adaptation to screen bring the same powerful performances or will it lose something in translation?
Fences follows an African-American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film is based on the August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play and features a great cast outside of Washington including Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, and Mykelti Williamson who all reprise their roles from the stage production in 2010 with newcomers Jovan Adepo and Saniyya Sydney wrapping up the cast. The trailers for this one was pretty powerful and while I have never seen the entire production I have seen some segments of it most notably ones comparing Washington and James Earl Jones takes on some scenes. Going in you know it is going to be pretty deep, but there is just nothing that can really tell you about the power of this film. This isn’t some big story with lots of twists and turns so much as just a powerful tale of a hard life, struggle, love, loss and the inability to let go of anger. This is a unique film that plays literally like a stage production shifting to the big screen with real life sets instead of a stage. The long monologues and powerful performances are outstanding on every level.
Everything about this film hinges on the performances and every member of the cast is brilliant. Washington leads the show with the majority of the dialogue and screen time showcasing yet again why he is one of the greatest actors around. His performance is flawless on every level and brings to life someone you can’t stand, but at times can also relate to his frustration of life beating him down as things unfold. It comes as no surprise that Viola Davis stands right there toe to toe with him bringing her A game once again as well. She has a rough job at being someone that is struggling with love and anger all while having to keep it all bottled up and relegated to holding this family together without losing her mind. While the rest of the cast is all great as well it’s Mykelti Williamson that really stands out for me as a special needs person who believes he is fighting the hounds of hell. His nuances and mannerisms capture a person that you both love and feel for as you know that he is fighting his own hell in his mind while trying to be the happy person he wants everyone else to be with him on the outside. These three together are pure magic with the remaining cast offering up the much needed glue to bring every element of this story together to perfection.
There is so much to the story and depth of these characters that you will no doubt find yourself discussing it for hours if you really let the film into your soul. There is behavior across the board that you will no doubt question and should, but you have to look at the time period and what they have all endured to really appreciate what they are trying to do for each other and themselves. This is a film that might not work for some due to way it was kept in a format of a stage performance, but for me that is part of the charm and brilliance of it all. This is a film that is the perfect example of raw talent on stage and one that is so powerful and poignant that should really be seen by all.
In addition to this powerful film, this release includes numerous featurettes taking viewers behind the brilliant performances and bringing this story from the stage to the big screen. This is a must see film so be sure to grab your copy of Fences available now on Digital HD and then on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand from Paramount Home Entertainment.