Unless music is involved, nobody these days talks enough about the great live Broadway performances, but more so the movie or TV series they are streaming on a mobile screen. So now, Denzel Washington (Malcolm X, Training Day) sets a clever strategy in place to create better public appreciation of the performing arts: using his experience acting in August Wilson’s play, Fences, he combines the humanistic, real-time feel of a play with the eye-to-eye level of power created by the culturally obsessed virtual screen.
How does he accomplish that you may ask? Well, only one single set takes up the majority of the film’s runtime, giving the feel of one single continuous scene, only relying on dialogue to carry the tension. The genius fusion of these two artistic mediums results in a heated, unsettling character drama which sticks to your ribs and controls you.
The living situation of the run-down family is meticulously detailed within their all-Negro neighborhood. Mr. Washington plays the indecent ruling patriarch over the home, a full-time colored garbage man, and the home’s sole breadwinner. The mother played by Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help) stays at home, wondering where her self-centered husband goes after work each day. The oldest son played by Russell Hornsby (Grimm, Lincoln Heights) plans to pursue a music career, with money bargained by his unwilling father. The youngest son played by Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers) still survives under their roof, dictated by his unloving father. As we see their few highs and many lows under the heated sun, attention never gets lost with the crucial information learnt about their hearts.
Denzel Washington proves how his experience acting on Broadway has prepared him for his tremendous screen direction. He stages the actors to express the household’s separation, however much the religious decorations on the house’s borders force them together. Although the sets look way too much like on stage, hurting the ability to feel engrossed in an authentic looking worn-down predicament. But the theatrical greatness comes less from the theatrical set, and more from the theatrical dialogue.
Everything coming out the actors’ lips parallels a live show, while also imitating talk by genuine people. They talk aplenty about their personal issues growing up, so much so, you need to pay close attention to remember something important. In fact, the dialogue pacing spits out in the speed of a play, rather unsuitable within cinematic bounds, where the actors are not the only visual element to the story. So you may have to put your glowing screen in your pocket away while you ingest your undivided attention to the feature.
Gradually, the tension between the tiny cast grows and grows from a serious lack of faith. Then suddenly, a devastating plot twist strikes you with snake fangs, pulling the less active characters out from the shadows to take charge. Never before since The Sixth Sense could a plot twist shake you so unnervingly. Even then, you won’t as feel shaken as Viola Davis was while delivering her dialogue of epiphany, commanding true, powerful tears from the ideal independent woman who understands the world’s needs.
The discomforting new nature of this Tony-nominated play pulls back the picket fence to reveal a completely different side to the American Dream at the dawn of the Civil Rights Era. While the lack of any redeeming White characters gives the race an overly bad name, it helps to recreate the play’s unique depiction of a fallen African-American family inside a changing world.
So due to recent events, everybody must see Fences right away, no matter their skin color. Both 2016 and 2017 needed a reminder on the importance of building fences: who are we keeping away from our existence? Who are we keeping in to better ourselves? What do we tear down to help our loved ones be better than we ever were? Such questions explain the vitality of in-person storytelling including stage productions: it forces us to look closer and see people in person for who they are, which in my perspective, we could benefit from.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Fences Movie. Paramount Pictures. Web. <http://www.fencesmovie.com/>.
Miller, Matt. Here's Why Denzel Washington's Fences Will Land on Every Oscar Ballot. Digital image. Esquire. Hearst Communications, 27 Sept 2016. Web. <http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/movies/news/a48962/fences-denzel-washington-trailer/>.
Pacelli, Lonnie. One-Minute Lessons on Raising Autistic Kids - 1 Minute, 3 Takeaways - Excerpted from Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids. Weebly. Web. <http://www.growingupautistic.com/1-minute-videos.html>.