There are just certain performers that resonate like a choir in a perfectly acoustically sound church and with their performances ringing through our senses we can only sit in awe. That is what you are going to get from the cast of Fences, a stage play turned film directed by and starring the one and only Denzel Washington, the star of the Tony-winning play. This stark adaptation presents an African-American family working their way through, poverty, family struggles, separatism, and the harsh realities of imperfect people. Denzel directs and acts out a winner with his cast doing just the same as you’d hope and expect when acting beside such impeccable talent.
Set in 1950’s Pittsburgh, we see Denzel and Viola Davis as a traditional, while charming, black couple making their way through the struggles of a black family in the 50’s. Through some of the best dialogue in film this year, with Oscar caliber performances to match, Viola Davis and Denzel hit it out of the park with the emotional tension that follows. Bringing up topics such as living for yourself or trying to shield those around from the mistakes you’ve made, it becomes a transcendent ideology through the lenses of film cameras, and the honest eyes of its actors. It helps that most of the stars of the film have done the play on stage hundreds of times and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t show. Unflinching, powerful, raw performances project the film into a stratosphere all on it’s own and show our actors in ways not many of us have truly seen.
If you haven’t seen of the play or know enough about the script itself then you are in for a real treat. The power of the film and it’s story is that it uses minimalist story tropes beyond it’s dialogue through endlessly interesting characters. Taking place mostly on the porch and kitchen of the main characters’ home, it uses cinematic language to the fullest that would make the play proud. It’s painful, frustrating cinema in the best ways, tangling your emotions like a bunch of electric chords until it all finally starts to spark. It makes you angry it’s catching fire, but you won’t want to put the fire out either. The performances are majestic, cryptic, and fascinating to watch unfold.
I don’t know if this makes me a masochist, but the way I felt was like when I got my first tattoo. It’s not that I wanted to like the pain, but there was this weird satisfaction of getting something permanently imprinted on my body and soul for the rest of my life, and maybe I’m being dramatic, but that’s exactly what I felt like after Fences. This conflict of interest when watching Denzel’s Troy Maxson come to life was so hard to pinpoint, but in the end, I think that’s the point. There is so much to be said in Fences and maybe it will feel a little drawn out for most of you, but there is one thing I can say that you all have to agree with, and that is that Fences is a powerful triumph in acting.