Fences (2016)


Cast includes: Denzel Washington (American Gangster), Viola Davis (Doubt), Stephen Henderson (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close), Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers), Russel Hornsby (Grimm), Mykelti Williamson (Lucky Number Sleven)
Writer: August Wilson (The Piano Lesson)
Director: Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters, Antwon Fisher)
Genre: Drama (159 minutes)


Huffington Post

Troy and his friend Bono have been working the back of a Pittsburgh garbage truck so long they’re almost like brothers. “Ain’t gonna fire me cuz I asked a question,” says Troy. Troy has always been the one to push for more… more than the white man wants to give, anyway. “Why they got all the white men driving and the colored men lifting?” Like a real brother Bono looks out for Troy. “I see where you been… who you been eyeing,” he says to Troy. “You ever know me to chase after women?” Still, Bono cautions Troy about Alberta. “Just bought her a drink.” Anyway, Troy and Rose are still like love birds in many ways. “If you ain’t the marrying kind, get out the way so I can find one,” Rose had said to Troy back then. These days, their banter can alternate between loving and heated… like when Rose wants Troy to sign the papers for Cory to try out for college football. “Ain’t gonna get him nowhere!”

“Times have changed,” says Rose. It’s the 1950s, and lots of teams have colored players. Troy can’t forget how he was treated… a promising baseball player, who got passed over by the major leagues. “Carrying other people’s rubbish” isn’t what Troy wanted out of life. Still he makes enough money that his 34-year-old son Lyons seems to show up regularly on Friday, “cus you know I got paid!” Troy could get him a job, but Lyons is a musician and has dreams of making it. Troy won’t even go hear his son play… that’s how sure he is that Lyons is wrong. In the meantime, Troy is mad at Cory for putting his job at the A&P on hold so he can go to football practice… and the boy has chores. “He needs to help me on the fence.”

Troy alternates between demanding more from life and knowing that the deck is stacked against him. He isn’t the only important character in this story, but somehow, when he’s around, he seems to take up all the oxygen… until he doesn’t. Fences was first a stage play… the 6th of 10 plays in August Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle,” about African-American's daily life (mostly) set in Pittsburgh. Each play takes place in a different decade, going from 1900 to 1990. Wilson died just before the Broadway opening of the last one. We can immediately see why Wilson won so many awards, from the Tony Award for Best Play to the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His dialog sizzles and his attention to detail is remarkable. Denzel Washington plays Troy and he directed the film. He’s extraordinary, as is Viola Davis. Unlike some movies versions of plays, they didn’t try to make this one feel less like a play, which would have required some rewriting. Instead, we get to enjoy Wilson’s script more or less as written. The characters are complex, and the problems they face are well rooted in the era. “You’re a bigger fool than I thought,” Troy screams at Cory. “The white man aint gonna let you get no where no how.” Yet Cory isn’t asking for anything more than Troy wanted for him self when he was young.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

Struggles of a “colored” family in 1950s Pittsburgh… times have changed but not that much

Popcorn Profile

Rated: PG-13
Audience: Grown ups
Gender Style: Bold
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release 
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle 1950s
Language: Artful

Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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