This film is a faithful re-creation of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Fences,” written by August Wilson. There was a 2010 Broadway revival, and most of the revival cast stars in this movie too, including Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. It is set in the mid-1950’s in Pittsburgh. The play/film is a powerful one, with multiple themes including racism, ambition, friendship, and family. The cast is uniformly excellent and the performances of Washington and Davis are easily the two best I’ve seen this year. I think they both deserve an A.A. for Best Actor in a drama. I also think Denzel deserves “Best Director” A.A. The film is emotionally intense, and I was captivated throughout most of it, although I thought the last 15 minutes were a bit anti-climactic. I consider this film to be a “MUST SEE!”
Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) has been working as a garbage man for many years. He is bitter and resentful about his job and economic status. Only whites were allowed to drive the trucks, so he was stuck hauling the garbage, which he does faithfully Monday-Friday, along with his co-worker and best friend Bono (Stephen Henderson). Even more importantly, however, Troy was a super-star in the baseball Negro Leagues and could have been All-Star in the major leagues, but when Jackie Robinson finally started playing for the Dodgers, Troy was already well past his athletic prime.
Troy had a difficult childhood and early adulthood, but he married Rose (Viola Davis) – who provided him the love and support he needed to keep himself together – and was living a stable and seemingly fulfilling life. Troy is very hard on his son, Cory (Jovan Adeop), supposedly because he doesn’t want Cory to make the same mistakes he did. (Perhaps, however, there are other unconscious factors within Troy that are negatively impacting their highly-conflictual relationship.) Troy is walled-off and isolated, and feels trapped in his situation, which is metaphorically alluded to by the fence he is intermittently building in his back yard.
I can’t reveal any more about the plot without spoiling it, but it’s a joy to see such great acting in a classic play brought to life on the BS.