Staged Patriarchal Bombast
Release Date: December 25, 2016
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola
Davis, Stephen Henderson,
Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby,
Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya
Runtime: 139 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures/Viacom
Director: Denzel Washington
Executive Producer: Molly Allen, Eli Bush, Aaron
L. Gilbert, Jason Cloth, Dale
Wells, Charles D. King, Kim
Producer: Scott Rudin, Denzel
Washington, Todd Black
Writer: August Wilson
Address Comments To:Thomas Dooley, CEO, Viacom
Brad Grey, Chairman/CEO, Paramount Pictures
Marc Evans, President, Motion Picture Group
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000; Website: www.paramount.com
Troy is a garbage collector with a chip on his shoulder in the mid 1950s. In the beginning, he’s challenging his company as to why none of the drivers are African American. Everyone tells him he’s gonna lose his job, but Troy is a fast talker who always thinks he’s right. His best friend and fellow garbage collector tells Troy he’s got to stop hanging with another woman at the bar after payday because he has a great wife named Rose.
Troy’s son from a previous marriage comes to borrow $10 from Troy so he can continue to support his dream of playing in a jazz group, but Troy makes him feel small and miserable. Troy finally gives Rose the money to give to his son.
Troy and Rose’s son, Cory, is being scouted to play football at a major university. Troy had been a great Negro League baseball player and is resentful he was never able to get into the majors. Out of envy, he goes behind his son’s back to tell the high school coach his son doesn’t want to be scouted.
Troy gets the woman at the bar pregnant, but she dies in childbirth. Troy gives the baby to Rose to raise. Rose has become a stronger and stronger Christian. She says she’ll take the baby but never wants Troy in her bed again. When Cory tries to defend his mother, Troy beats him up. Troy also takes financial advantage of his disabled brother, who was wounded in World War II and is incapable of thinking clearly. His brother has found a room he can rent, but to get at his money, Troy puts his brother into an asylum.
In other words, Troy is one bad dude, probably representative of many African American fathers in Writer August Wilson’s mind, and his dialogue is carefully crafted so that his selfish, tyrannical ways almost make sense. There is some indication of redemption after his death, but it’s never shown in the movie.
Viola Davis does a great job as Rose, and Mykelti Williamson [pronounced “Michael T”] is brilliant as Troy’s brother. The only acting that’s a little bit off is Denzel Washington. His stereotypical poses are almost like Warren Beatty’s in his own passion flick of the season, RULES DON’T APPLY. Both these movies are too biographical for their own good.
There’s an important story at the heart of FENCES that speaks to African American fathers and families, but the movie is so stagey and extreme that whatever morality story it had to tell is lost in the story about a bad dad. Ultimately, it’s depressing as well as sleep inducing, which is too bad because Denzel Washington has done really good work in previous movies.
Viola Davis is great in FENCES as Rose. Mykelti [pronounced “Michael T”] Williamson is brilliant as Troy’s brother. The only acting that’s a bit off is Denzel Washington, who delivers a stereotypical performance. There’s an important story here that speaks to African American fathers and families, but FENCES is so stagey and extreme that whatever morality story it had to tell is lost in the story about a bad dad. Ultimately, FENCES is depressing and sleep inducing.