Fences – Movie Review

Fences – PG-13
Release Date: Sun 25 Dec 2016

Fences was written by August Wilson based on his play. Denzel Washington directs and stars as Troy, a man trying to cope with his present responsibilities and his damaged past. He lives with his wife Rose (Viola Davis), his teenage son Cory (Jovan Adepo.)

It’s easy to see why Washington would want to take on this interesting role. What’s less apparent is why it needed to be a film. There is very little adaptation here and it is very distracting. Plays and films have different limitations and Fences feels like a play that was shot on location. Scenes seem to fix in a single location for tens of minutes at a time with nothing but the performances to focus on. When a time lapse sequence shows up after about an hour it suddenly feels like a movie for a few minutes.

The dialogue is another symptom of not committing to making a movie and just taping a play on location. The first fifteen minutes amounts to an extended (almost) monologue from Troy, with Washington talking as fast as possible. It feels like they condensed a three-hour play down to two by taking out all the spaces between sentences, further breaking any illusion that we’re watching natural conversations.

Fences is probably a fantastic play to see on the stage, but this uninspired, barely adapted film version is a long unappealing slog.

Amber, Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car:

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