Movie Review: ‘Fences’ Starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis

Fences Movie Review

Having seen the Broadway production of Fences, I was curious how the play would translate to film. Would the intensity and intimacy that live theatre has translate to the filmed version? Would Denzel Washington’s and Viola Davis’ performances be as good as they were on stage? Would I still have to deal with that guys big head in the seat in front of me?

Yes, big yes and, thankfully, no.

With a lot of plays translated to film, you can definitely feel a bit of claustrophobia. The recent filmed version of Yasmina Reza’s play, God of Carnage, suffered from that. It was set in one room and director Roman Polanski didn’t bother to open up the world. It made it flat and boring and by the time it ended, it felt like you were released from detention. Not so with Fences. The play itself is set in the backyard of the Troy Maxon’s family home. On stage, it feels open and airy and Washington, as director, has opened up the play to make it feel exactly like that on-screen. He’s got a living, breathing neighborhood to explore and it makes the film feel more vibrant and alive.

Washington stars as Troy Maxon, a former Negro League player who’s now working as a garbage man alongside his long-time friend Bono (the great Stephen Henderson). He lives with his wife Rose (Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo). His younger brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), an ex-soldier who got a head injury, has just moved out on his own and has taken his monthly disability payments with him. Money is tight now and it doesn’t help that his oldest son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby) has just come around asking to borrow some money.

The family’s life begins to unravel with a one-two punch of Troy wanting Cory to turn down his only shot at college (to get a job working with his hands) and him dropping a devastating bombshell (which I won’t spoil) on Rose.

Troy’s a fast-talking man of with a big personality. He’s got stories that seem to get bigger with every re-telling and his wife, Rose and Bono seem never to tire of them. Washington is just fantastic weaving these yarns and he’s even more gripping when he flashes his anger. Davis matches him here. She’s the opposite of Troy, quiet and stoic. She loves her husband and his bombast but also knows that, at times, it walking on egg shells with him. There’s no feeling that these two have performed these roles hundreds of times, it’s fresh and alive and wonderful.

Directed with confidence by Washington from a script written by August Wilson, Fences is a pure joy to watch with two dynamite actors in the prime of their careers.

Leave a Reply
Linnea Berthelse on Her ‘Stranger Things’ Audition and Keeping Her Role a Secret for a Year
“Sometimes when actors don’t get the part, it’s not always about an actor being a bad actor; it’s about connecting to the material.” – Linnea Berthelsen Stranger Things is back on our screens with its second season, something fans have been waiting for ever since season one arrived on Netflix in 2016. Returning to the […]
Jonathan Groff on Playing King George III in ‘Hamilton’: “I rehearsed for about a day, and then went into the show”
Can you even imagine stepping into a role in one of the biggest Broadway hits of all time with barely any time to prepare?
Lina Esco on Playing the Only Female Officer on ‘S.W.AT.’: “I have to portray her as someone equal to all of the guys on her team”
"The important thing for me when I read scripts is how much respect I have for the character and how far I can take her" - Lina Esco
Sam Rockwell on Typecasting and One of His Worst Auditions
"I’m kind of a workhorse. It takes a toll" - Sam Rockwell
Rachel Bloom: “The way that I learned comedy was not rigid, but this very specific technique taught by the Upright Citizens Brigade”
"I went from being a person who was doing moderately successful videos online and working as a moderately successful TV writer and aspiring to do this to having a Golden Globe." - Rachel Bloom