For Reel

Fences (2016)
February 12, 2017, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Denzel Washington
3.5 Stars
fencesAs Fences begins, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is shown to be a man who ceaselessly chatters to anyone who will (and often will not) listen. He is good-humored and a hard worker, but is undeniably fueled by both bitterness and stubbornness—qualities that alienate him from his grown son, Cory (Jovan Adepo), whom Troy comes to resent as an extension of own deep set self-hatred. If Washington’s performance in these early scenes is impressive, Fences is at its most powerful when it becomes clear just how small of a man Troy really is—his attempts at justifying his actions reveal Troy to be little more than a scrambling, desperate coward. As Troy’s stature is reduced, the film’s focus shifts from Washington’s grandiosity to the quiet tenacity of Viola Davis, whose few eruptions provide the film’s most memorable and enduring sequences. If she is a remarkable presence throughout, she sneaks up and runs away with the film by design—that is, if Fences begins by introducing what appears to be the largest of men, it is actually a film about those who maintain their dignity and outlast him. By the end, the film doubles back on its deconstruction of Troy’s flaws and the resulting sentiment feels unearned, even as it creates the film’s most interesting contradictions. Washington mostly stays out of the way as director—the film’s “staginess” is especially distracting when the off-stage action is kept off-stage for the adaptation—but Fences works if it is to be taken simply as a showcase for two of the great screen talents of their generation.