Fences

January 1, 2017 at 6:49 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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When Hollywood approached August Wilson about adapting his 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning play, “Fences,” he agreed to create the screenplay but insisted that only a Black director could helm the film. It took more than a decade after Wilson’s death before Denzel Washington stepped in and created this masterpiece. Watching this film was like watching a master class in film making. Everything was as close to perfect as I could imagine it. Taking place in a working class Pittsburgh neighborhood in 1956-57, the film managed to create a rich sense of place that looked and felt very real. The script tells the story of a middle-aged and disillusioned African American man, barely holding onto his dignity in the only way he knows how, while his family is forced to bare the consequences. The beautifully rich dialogue, complex emotions and multi-layered characters are a reminder that 20th Century American playwrights created a bold and unique art form. Authors like Wilson, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Tony Kushner and Edward Albee were masters at exploring the pain and fragility that lay just below the surface of the failed American Dream. Hollywood could learn from their command of language. I was repeatedly blown away by the richness of the dialogue and the deep emotions that were almost constantly present. But the real joy of this film was in watching its world class cast. As Troy, Washington was at the top of his game, giving one of his best performances ever. He was angry and sad and stubborn and vulnerable and heartbreaking to watch. Especially powerful were his interactions with Viola Davis, who should win the Oscar for this performance. I have to also single out Mykelti Williamson who was fantastic as Troy’s brother. But every single performance was just a joy to watch. These are actors who love their craft. I cannot recommend this deeply touching film enough; it’s the reason I go to the movies.

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