by Daniel Smallwood
Opening in theaters on Christmas Day, the “Fences” movie is directed by two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, who takes the director’s chair for the first time since 2007 in “The Great Debaters.” “Fences” was written by August Wilson, adapted from his own Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play from 1987.
The film also stars Washington, acting alongside Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney. In addition to acting and directing, Washington is also producing the “Fences” movie alongside Todd Black and Scott Rudin.
In “Fences,” an African American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life.
The movie is based on the play “Fences,” which opened on Broadway in 1987. The production won Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Actor, James Earl Jones, and Best Featured Actress, Mary Alice. A revival of “Fences” opened in 2010, and the production won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Actor, Denzel Washington, and Best Actress, Viola Davis.
The focus of Wilson’s attention in “Fences” is Troy, a 53-year-old head of household who struggles with providing for his family. The story takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Troy was a great baseball player in his younger years, having spent time practicing in prison for an accidental murder he had committed during a robbery. Because blacks were still not welcomed into Major League Baseball, Troy was unable to make good money or to save for the future. He now lives a menial, but respectable life of trash collecting—remarkably crossing the race barrier and becoming a driver instead of just a barrel lifter.
Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone said about the highly acclaimed film, “Fences is like watching Mamet or Shakespeare. It’s all writing and acting, but to watch pros like that with that script, I was bedazzled,” Stone wrote. “Fences blew me away!”
According to Malina Saval, Associate Editor of variety.com, the mark of a great script is one whose words and dialogue stick with you long after the movie ends, developing a life outside of the confines of the big screen. The screenplay should also provide material rich enough for its actors to turn in their best possible performances.
“Fences,” about a black working-class family in 1950s Pittsburgh, is that script. Wilson’s language is rhythmic, and it enables stars Viola Davis and Denzel Washington to turn in what are arguably the most dynamic performances of their careers.
View the official Paramount trailer here.