Acting Showcase


23 December 2016| No Comments on Fences     by Sean Chavel


Something of a homework assignment, but there’s a lot to admire and a lot worth storing into your memory banks once it’s done. Fences has a lot of blustery, long-winded dialogue that manages not to sound too forced because Denzel Washington (also directing) is playing a convincing blustery, long-winded blowhard garbage man in 1950’s Pittsburgh. He’s a man not interested in being cured into humble civility. Viola Davis plays his long suffering wife who has lived with faith by this man, at the expense of letting her own horizons flower – she gets several wrenching scenes whether it be refereeing her husband as he goes hard against his sons (note to all: Do not ask a 1950’s dad for a handout) or just an exasperated breakdown when a betrayal comes.

There are tiring, dogmatic passages interrupted by moments of searing power – I’m ultimately grateful to be pulled a long by it. At its best we see the struggles of being part of a black family in the mid-twentieth century, the color divide that besets success, and most powerfully, a father’s jealousy of a son succeeding at sports when in his peak he couldn’t go to the Majors. We hear a lot of angles around these issues from the bellicose, verbose dialogue that circles and circles around its’ themes. If “Fences” could be accused of anything, it’s overachieving. I wish Washington, who first acted this in a 2010 revival of August Wilson’s 1983 play, didn’t feel it was sacrilegious as a director to not purge away superfluous dialogue. Washington plans to adapt more Wilson plays to the screen (all ten of them, he says), but I would hope he cuts down on the lengths of them.

But it still features brilliant acting nonetheless, Washington is electric and Davis is sorrow personified – you more than just hear about it, you read it in every nuanced expression of their faces. Plus there’s a last third plot twist that is jaw-dropping powerful. Final admission: I did get a lot more out of “Fences” than I do out of any presentation of “A Raisin in the Sun.” But is the 1964, ahead-of-its-time, “Nothing But a Man,” the most lyrical of all the films about black struggles in America? That one should be more widely known.

133 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961); “Nothing But a Man” (1964); “Killer of Sheep” (1977); “42” (2013).

Fences_Movie Pedigree

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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