Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: It is 1955, and in Pittsburgh Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is doing his best to make a life for himself and his family. But it ain’t easy for a black man to get ahead in that time and place. Troy might have been one of the best baseball players ever, but was past his prime when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball.
Troy has a steady job as a garbage collector, and makes $76 every Friday to give to his wife Rose (Viola Davis), who is in charge of finances. They have a modest apartment and a 17 year old son Corey (Jovan Adepo), a promising high school football star looking to win a scholarship and go to college. Older son Lyons (Russell Hornsby) has moved out, trying to make his way as a musician. On payday there is enough change left over to buy a pint of Emerald’s Dry Gin and hang around the back yard shooting the bull with his best friend Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson). Troy is sociable and extroverted, loves his family including his mentally challenged brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) who was seriously wounded in WW II, and Troy tries his best to keep all the plates spinning so everyone is cared for. He does this because he is the man, the head of the household, and it is his responsibility. But at times, the pain he feels as a black man who has had to struggle too hard to survive bubbles up to the surface to fuel his anger, as well as a deep resentment that he never had a shot at greatness as a ball player.
Fences, originally a play by August Wilson, was a celebrated success on Broadway. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis played the parts on the stage, and brought their considerable talents to this film. This is a totally character driven movie with 90% of the scenes taking place in the house or the back yard. The characters are so real you can feel their joy, their pain, and their resignation that they must accept the hand that life has dealt them. Only Corey with his youthful idealism believes that he can make a better life for himself. This film defines the experience of what it was like for many black families at that time in America. The acting in this film is brilliant. My pick for Best Picture Oscar, as well as Oscars for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.
Troy – “I eye all the women. I don’t miss nothing.” Rose – “I told him if you ain’t the marrying kind to move out of the way so the marrying kind can find me!”
Bono – “Ain’t but two men ever played baseball as good as you; Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson.”
Troy – “Jackie Robinson! I seen some teams Jackie Robinson couldn’t even make! If you can play, you should be able to play.”
Troy – “If my brother didn’t have a metal plate in his head I wouldn’t have a roof over my head or a pot to piss in.”
Corey – “Can I ask you a question?” How come you never liked me?” Troy – “What law is there that say I got to like you?”
Gabriel – “I been chasing hell hounds. The Devil ain’t no pushover!”
Bono – “Some people build fences to keep people out, and some people build fences to keep people in.”
Troy – “It’s not easy for me to admit I’ve been standing in the same place for 18 years.” Rose – “What about me? I’ve been standing in the same place too!”
“Life ain’t fair, that’s for damn sure. As Troy liked to say, a big part of getting through life is knowing you have to take the crooked with the straight.”