Movie Review – Fences

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 I haven’t been to the movie theater in a LONG time…..just haven’t seen anything come out that I had a burning desire to see! I thought maybe I’d go see one on Christmas day….used to love to go to the movies on Christmas when I lived in NC on years that I didn’t come up home or Mom didn’t go down to be with me for the holidays. But, then a friend and I made plans to go during the week, so I held off and waited until we could go together. There were 2 or 3 movies I thought I might be interested in. Fences – the new Denzel Washington film that opened on Christmas Day – was one of them. So, today was the day we could both go and that is what we saw.

First……like I said, it has been quite a while since I’ve been to the movies and we discovered that a lot has changed in that time!  We like to go to Tinseltown in Gates – it is a nice, clean theater, easy to get to, not as far as going into the city further, and their prices are lower than other theaters! The early bird matinee used to be $5.25 and it is now $6.25 – hhhmmm – well, OK, still less expensive than most other theaters……you have to choose your seat when you buy the ticket at the ticket window – thought that was pretty odd, but we went with the flow…….the concession prices went up, too – a medium popcorn and medium soda used to cost me about $10-ish but cost $12-something, today…….and, the best change, they renovated the theater to include some awesome leather recliners for the seats!!! YES!!! Big, wide, comfortable seats with a powered recliner! That means a lot less seats in each screen room, but that’s OK (probably why all the prices went up – they gotta pay for them fancy seats and offset having less viewers per showing)! Anyway……loved the new seats and Tinseltown is still the best theater for us!

So……I wanted to see Fences because it looked like a  powerful story and I think Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are amazing actors – a sure bet! Well, it ended up not being quite what I expected. Yes, it was a very powerful story and followed the basic premise I got out of the movie trailers…..and Denzel and Viola didn’t disappoint in the acting category! But, it was very DARK and deeply intense. Don’t get me wrong – I liked it and as I was watching it, thought that I would love to read the book to learn more about the characters and the back stories that rarely make it into movies (but, alas, I read in the closing credits that it is based on a play, not a book, so guess I won’t be reading it). But, it lacked some break in the tension and strong drama – a little lightheartedness and happiness for the characters would have made it easier to watch……but, I do understand why the writers didn’t take the characters down that road.

It is the story of a man’s struggle with his demons and life as a black man in the 1950s Pittsburgh – just doing for and relating to his family the best he knew how, but he never had any decent role models to learn how to do it any better. Denzel Washington impeccably portrays Troy Maxson, who had a rough life after being forced to go out on his own at the age of 14, robbed to get by, had a son and married at a very young age, and was sent to prison for 15 years for killing a man during a robbery. When he got out of prison, he discovered his wife left with his son and he had nothing. He met his second wife, Rose – brilliantly played by Viola Davis – and turned his life around. He was good at baseball and played for the Negro League, but was deemed too old for the majors…..although, he is convinced that he was passed over because of the color of his skin and holds a grudge over it the rest of his life. Don’t worry – no major spoilers there……all this is told through Troy’s wild stories about the old days. The current story starts when Troy is in his 50s, married to Rose, and with a teenage son – Cory, played by Jovan Adepo – who he doesn’t really know how to be a father to, but knows he wants to be sure he grows up to not follow in his footsteps, causing massive tension and animosity between them.

Three other main characters add an interesting dimension to the story and to Troy and Rose’s life: Jim Bono (played by Stephen McKinley Henderson) – Troy’s best friend from his time in prison; Troy’s estranged son from his first marriage, Lyons Maxson (played by Russell Hornsby); and Troy’s older brother, Gabe Maxson (another wonderful performance by Mykelti Williamson – best known for his role as Bubba in Forrest Gump), who suffered a head injury in World War II that left him mentally impaired.

There was very little about Troy Maxson that I liked…..I think the fact that he was a hard working, proud man who took his responsibilities very seriously was his most redeeming quality. Otherwise, he was not a very likable person in how he treated his wife and son and how he held on to ancient grudges of the past and let them control his life. But, that is life sometimes……I may not have liked Troy, but I understood why he was the way he was.

The characters interactions and relationships were intense, to say the least, and there was amazing chemistry between them all. All the actors gave stunning performances and had me feeling I was watching a real family going through some of the most gut wrenching real life situations in difficult times. I will not be at all surprised if Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are nominated for all the best actor awards and (without knowing any other possible nominees) think they deserve to actually win!!!

All-in-all, it was a good story, well told, and superbly acted. But, it was a tad too dark and intense for a morning matinee for my taste and I’m not sure whether I liked the ending or not….I’m the sappy kind that hopes for an ending where everyone is happy and it all gets tied up in a pretty blue ribbon and, while the ending was absolutely appropriate to the rest of the story, it didn’t satisfy my sappy side. I’m very glad I went to see it and got quite emotional (read: cried my eyes out) in several of the scenes. While I would have liked some levity to break up the tension, I do understand that in the lives of these characters, levity was hard to come by…..although, there were a couple lines that I snickered at a little….albeit a very little! 🙂 I give the writer a lot of credit – he told it like it is, made it as real as it gets, and found a way to tell it without falling into the trap of trying to appeal the romantic side of his audiences – good job!  I rate it a solid 4 out of 5 because of the story and the acting – can’t deny it was very good in those aspects – but only recommend it for people who like tense, serious, real-life drama stories – it isn’t for people who want a sentimental story with a happy ending and will be disappointed if they don’t get it. Check out the clip of the trailer below!

The rest of our day was spent having lunch and shopping. It was a wonderful Thursday with a good friend and I enjoyed every minute of it……hope we get the chance to have more days like this in the coming year!

Trailers:

2 Comments on “Movie Review – Fences

  1. Hey Kim – Just an FYI – Movies before noon at Pittsford Plaza are $5. Some start around 11:00. There is a Trader Joe’s and Barnes and Noble in the plaza that you might enjoy – I know I do!

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