AFTERNOON Cinema happened in the morning this week. I wanted to see Fences, Denzel Washington’s film of the August Wilson play. I prefer to see a film on Fridays, which allows me to talk about it on my regular Monday appearance on our local TV station. That way, anybody interested has time to see the film themselves before the cinema changes its programme at the end of the week.
Clear so far? On Friday, neither of the cinemas in town was showing Fences in the afternoon. It was a choice of an evening screening, or one at 11.20 in the morning. The Current Mrs Feeney and I chose the morning show.
“Is this one of those special screening for seniors?” TCMrsF asked. “No. So we don’t get free coffee and biscuits,” I said.
There is something odd about walking into a cinema in the middle of a sunny morning. I suppose real film critics get used to it. And they get free sandwiches.
The noticeable absence of free refreshments didn’t spoil our enjoyment of the film. Washington’s direction deliberately retains the structure and feel of a play. It does not attempt to distract from Wilson’s dense, poetic dialogue with cinematic flourishes.
There are towering performances from Washington and Viola Davis, both reprising their roles as Troy and Rose Maxson from the acclaimed 2010 Broadway revival.
This was the second film in a week (the first was Hidden Figures) we’d seen that examines the prejudices limiting black Americans. There’s a third (Loving) currently on release here that looks at the same theme. Surely not a coincidence?
But there’s a lot more to Fences than that. It’s also about the complicated rhythms of a long marriage, and the competition between generations. Above all, it’s about the way people are shaped and warped by their experiences.
I was surprised by the strongly religious sub-theme, with repeated references to God and the Devil, heaven and hell, life and death. Sin and Innocence also have their place in Troy’s Pittsburg back yard.
We enjoyed the experience, but it is undeniably more theatrical than cinematic. That’s why I’m giving it a slightly lower mark than such powerful individual performances would normally merit.
Retired Bloke Rating: **** Good way to spend an afternoon (or morning).
The Film Buff Stuff:
Fences. Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Director: Denzel Washington.
- Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson). Nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. Washington won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Glory (1989), and Best Actor Oscar for Training Day (2001). Has played a series of real-life figures, including Malcolm X, Steve Biko, and Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.
- Viola Davis (Rose Maxson). Davis won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Doubt (2008), and was nominated for Best Actress Oscar for The Help (2011). Her current Best Supporting Actress nomination for Fences makes her the first black woman to be nominated for three Oscars.
- Mykelti Williamson (Gabe Maxson, Troy’s brother)
- Russell Hornsby (Lyons Maxson, Troy’s elder son)
- Saniyya Sidney (Raynell Maxson, Troy’s daughter)
- Stephen Henderson (Jim Bono, Troy’s best friend)
- Jovan Adepo (Cory Maxson, Troy’s younger son)