Having already starred in the Broadway revival of Fences back in 2010, Denzel Washington reprises his role and directs the big screen adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony and Pulitzer winning play, along with fellow cast mate Viola Davis.
So, is it any good?
Fences features a pair of undeniably powerful performances from it’s too leads, perhaps the best of their careers. But great performances don’t make a great film, and although the vast majority of critics have showered Fences with praise, for me there simply wasn’t enough to recommend a friend go see it at the cinema.
“With wall to wall dialogue for almost 140 minutes…Fences is a bit of a slog.”
If you’re going to adapt a play into a movie, you’d best justify its existence; and aside from the odd close up and lingering camera move, Washington’s direction never utilises the strengths of the medium. It reminded me a lot of last year’s The Hateful Eight, which itself was headed for the theatre when Quentin Tarantino went back on his decision not to make the film when an early script was leaked. Like that film, Fences is set almost exclusively in one location: a suburban home in Pittsburgh, where an African-American couple try to etch out an existence while raising their teenage son, all set against the backdrop of 1950s America.There is power to this story, one which is sadly still relevant in these modern times; but these are strengths of the original source material, not the film. The screenplay was written by Wilson before his death in 2005, so perhaps the filmmakers have left his original vision untouched out of respect for his legacy. Regardless, with wall to wall dialogue for almost 140 minutes with no visual flourishes to keep you interested, Fences feels like a bit of a slog.
Denzel completists will likely still seek this out, but for anyone else, it might be worth pretending you’ve seen it come Oscar night and catching it when it hits home video.Fences is in Australian cinemas from today