Fences (Denzel Washington, 2017)

What's it about? Adaptation of the Pulitzer-prize winning play by August Wilson about Troy Maxton (Denzel Washington), a Pittsburgh binman whose lost dreams of glory impact upon his relationships with his wife (Viola Davis) and children.

Is it any good? By all accounts Fences is a brilliant stage production, but I'm afraid it hasn't translated as well to the screen. It's perfectly watchable, thanks mostly to two excellent performances from Washington and Davis (who won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her pains) as they negotiate their way through a marriage. Having both performed in the 2010 revival of the stage play, they know these characters intimately and the strongest scenes revolve around their clashes. But Washington the director is perhaps a bit too faithful to Wilson's story and words, meaning some of the more theatrical elements jar somewhat on film. Thus, cliched as it may be, it's hard to avoid the word 'stagy' in describing it. Worth seeing for those central turns, but if it was a fence, it would be a long, uneven one with some clumsily assembled sections.

I don't trust you. What do others think? August Wilson would presumably have approved, as his screenplay remains intact and he always insisted this needed to be directed by a black director. But we'll never know because he died in 2005, meaning he joins a small list of writers who were posthumously nominated for a screenplay Oscar (he didn't win). General consensus is that it's solid rather than spectacular and you'd be better off with the play, all things considered. There's a good article here by Richard Brody who articulates why Fences didn't translate well to the screen.

What does the Fonz think? I'm sitting on the fence.

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