Over the years there has been countless stage to screen adaptations. Movie producers, dazzled by what they see on stage, have quickly snapped up the rights to create films. Plays such as ‘Annie’, ‘A Chorus Line’ have had varying screen success. Based on August Wilson’s play, ‘Fences’ attempts to break free from its theatrical origins. As usual, ‘Fences’ makes the mistake of not doing enough to adapt the words to the big screen. It still has stirring performances but won’t go down as being one of the more memorable stage transplantations.
Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a hard working husband and father in 1950’s Pittsburgh. Bitter at past regrets, he shoulders a lifetime of pain. His wife Lee (Viola Davis) stands as a peacemaker between him and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo). Arguments are often heated between them with friendships and entangled familial relationships sorely tested. Events rapidly escalate and threaten to destroy all Troy has worked for as he attempts to make peace with the demons that constantly haunt him.
Directed by star Denzel Washington, ‘Fences’ gives him much to flex his thespian muscles. As the eternally angry head of the family, Troy’s sour demeanour tries to ensnare those around him. By keeping his family under his thumb, he hopes for some form of control. The film’s title derives from the fence he builds and his hopes that it will contain the rage threatening to unleash. Whilst Washington gives a spirited performance, his character is so unlikeable it makes for tiresome viewing.
Adding to the lethargy is the filming within confined spaces increasing the level of monotony. Little has been done to clearly show the world Troy lives in. This may have helped to better understand why he acts in certain ways and why his family put up with him. ‘Fences’ would have sunk further had it not been for a great cast who give their roles energy, especially Davis who is great as the long-suffering wife. The period setting isn’t used as well as it could have been, even if the cinematography successfully exposes its grittiness.
Failing to fully transport the stage’s original power, ‘Fences’ is only a moderate screen success. Not all stage plays need movie adaptations as ‘Fences’ proves despite its fine performances. Hopefully future adaptations will be more capable of opening up stage plays for all types of audiences to enjoy.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 6
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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