Sunday, December 25, 2016

Fences, A Classic American Story

(Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play by August Wilson)

Opens everywhere on Christmas Day 2016
“Fences” is a great American movie in the tradition of American classics like "A Raisin In The Sun""It's A Wonderful Life", "Imitation of Life" and "Malcolm X". Led by two-time Academy award winning actor, Denzel Washington, who also directed the film, and award winning actress Viola Davis, this brilliant cast of actors reprised their roles from the 2010 run of the play on Broadway. Washington, Davis and Mykelti Williamson breathed life into these characters in such a way that the audience is able to see the humanity of and identify with these complex but lovable individuals.
The story is set in the 1950’s and finds its main character, Troy Maxson, as a married father of two sons who lives in a two story house and works as a sanitation worker (aka a “garbage man”) in the blue collar town of Pittsburgh, PA. Segregation is very much the order of the day as black men are not allowed to drive the trash trucks. These jobs are reserved for white men. In fact, we see Maxson break barriers in the film as he is the first black man to be promoted to driver in the city. He’s a hero, right? Well Troy Maxson is a complicated guy with a heart of gold but a steel fist.
Rose Maxson, played by Viola Davis, is your everyday woman of the time. She’s a housewife that cooks, cleans, holds the family together and is active in her church. Her life would appear simple, but as it is in the real world, real life is never simple. Ms. Davis helps us see who the real hero and “stable one” is in the family even though she is married to a hard-working, responsible man who brings his entire paycheck home to her. Modern day feminists and womanists might look down on Rose for the choices that she made especially after she is betrayed. However, Viola’s Oscar-worthy performance helps us understand Rose’s choices and leaves us with no criticism for this character.
Mykelti Williamson plays, Gabriel, the disabled war veteran brother of Troy whose war injury settlement made it possible for the family to buy a modest home in an all-black section of town. Mykelti delivered an amazingly simple, but wonderfully nuanced performance of an individual with a mental disability. I loved the interaction between Lyons, Troy’s oldest son, played by Russell Hornsby and Gabriel. It portrayed the true love, patience and acceptance that you will find in families of an individual with special needs.
One of the overarching themes in this movie is how easy it is to become a victim to a cycle of pain even when you have fought hard to be nothing like and tried to get far away from the thing that has caused you so much pain in your life. The masterful performance of Stephen Henderson (Troy’s co-worker and best friend) shows us what it means to be a true friend in good and bad times. Jovan Adepo, Troy’s youngest son Cory, and Sanyya Sidney, remind us that love is not perfect but it can be beautiful if we allow ourselves to be open to the reality of love and not what we see in fairy tales.
Fences is truly an amazing story. It's an American story. It’s a family movie. Go see it Christmas Day!

****Cast of Fences at New York advance screening:

Check out this clip of Denzel Washington giving life advice at an advance screening of the film in New York City on December 18, 2016:
"Fight For Your Dreams"

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