Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give their all in “Fences,” based on the play by Playwright August Wilson.
Washington directed this film set in the mid-20th Century. He stars as Troy Maxson, a family-man in the big city working as a garbage man. He comes home to his wife, Rose (Davis) and his son, Cory (Jovan Adepo). He pals around with his best friend, Bono (Stephen Henderson) about almost making it big in baseball and escaping death’s long sickle when he had pneumonia.
Maxson shows his bitterness for the sport when he recalls that he was let go for being too old. He gets bitter when Rose says Cory was accepted by the college football team. He doesn’t want Cory to go through the same disappointments he went through in baseball. Rose says times have changed, but Maxson remains stubborn as a mule. Cory and Maxson stop seeing eye to eye when Maxson persuades the coach to take Cory off the team.
Cory is not the only child Maxson has adversity with. Lyons (Russell Hornsby) is Maxson’s first son, 34 years old. When Maxson comes home on Friday, his payday, Lyons stops by and asks for $10. Maxson gives Lyons crap, saying he should make his own money and stop hanging out at the nightclubs, where he’s trying to make a living off making music. Maxson had Lyons with another woman. He left her and met Rose. He and Rose have been married for 18 years.
While providing for his family, Maxson cares for his brother, Gabriel (“Forrest Gump’s” Mykelti Williamson). Gabriel became mentally ill after getting shot in the head and getting a metal plate.
“Fences” is an emotional seesaw that keeps you hooked to the credits. There are scenes where Washington makes you laugh at his character’s sly sayings and actions. Then he gets full of rage and power, which reminds me of his role as Lonzo in “Training Day.”
A memorable scene is when Cory helps Maxson build the fence Rose wants. He asks why Maxson doesn’t like him. Maxson looks at him and says, “What law is there that says I have to like you?” He says he gives him a roof over his head, food to eat and clothes on his back because it’s his duty to take care of him. “Liking your Black ass wasn’t part of the bargain.”
Davis shines as Maxson’s faithful wife. She stands by him through the good and hard times, never letting him go.
The characters of “Fences” are so relatable that we know them personally. We have a Bono in our lives that supports us and makes us see what we have. We have a Rose who loves us unconditionally and remains loyal by our sides. We even have a Maxson that makes us smile and angry at the same time.
We learn a lot about the characters through dialogue. A great skill. This film would have more depth if there were flashbacks of Maxson. When he says he had trouble with his own father and he became a man at 14, it would be cool to see footage of a young Maxson and his father and a young Rose when he first met her.
“Fences” should win two Oscars and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor and Best Actress. Washington, as always, delivers a superb performance. Davis’ performance is spectacular too.
Studio: Paramount Pictures (2hr. 18 min)
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney, Christopher Mele, Stephen Henderson
Story: A family-man must face the demons of his past and present while trying to do right for his family.
Director: Denzel Washington
Final Score: A-