Denzel Washington directs and stars in Fences, a screen adaptation of the Pulitizer Award-winning stage drama written by August Wilson starring Washington and Viola Davis who actually starred in the play version on Broadway, won Tonys for their performances and returned for the revival. Stage to screen adaptations can be tricky but not impossible. There have been some phenomenal transitions such as Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables and A Streetcar Named Desire. Fences proves once again that stage and screen can be interchanged and be just as powerful in this incredible drama about the truth that building walls to protect ourselves many times separate us from those we love most.
Casting Is Key
The majesty of this simple 1950’s based drama lies in the strength of its cast. First of all I was a huge sucker for this film because I love Denzel Washington. In fact he ranks number one on my Top Ten Actors of All Time. If you’ve seen any of his movies then you already know that he has been gifted with the ability to reach into the soul and heart of man and pluck off the raw and earthy fruit of passion, respect, and emotion driven conflict and allow every audience member to have a bite. The man is an incredibly talented artist and every time he performs I’m immediately sucked into the mind of his character. He’s a one-of-a-kind actor and at 62 years old he is still a force to be reckoned with. In fact, I daresay that this was his best performance with a second runner up being his portrayal of Malcom X. He pulls no punches in this hard hitting drama and delivers each line with the honesty and unabashed courage of a professional. He’ll draw you in and spit you out–and you’ll be better for it.
Next let’s talk about Viola Davis. This woman is incredible. I would put her in top five of the most talented actresses of all time. Her character in this film seems tailored completely to her abilities and honestly she may have even outshone Denzel in her stunning portrayal. In fact I’m going to call it right now–she’ll win best supporting actress. Better get that Oscar speech ready! Twice she brought me to tears. The rest of the supporting cast (Stephen Henderson, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby, and Jovan Adepo) add nothing but greatness to the talent presented by the leads. Each one has their own piece to the puzzle, their own cog that works together to create and incredible vehicle of drama, conflict, and emotion that defines the African American experience and drives the attention of the audience towards the most poignant of virtues.
Being that it is adapted from a play this film is very dialogue driven. Most of the happenings occur in the kitchen, living room, and backyard of a humble Pittsburgh home–there’s no stunts or amazing special effects. It’s just pure raw storytelling dramatized in superb fashion. If you’re looking the triumph of the human experience wrapped up in two hours or so then look no farther than Fences which once again reminded me why I love cinema.
Daily Diatribe Rating 9/10