I’ve never seen Antoine Fischer but I have seen The Great Debaters, as far as Denzel Washington’s directional efforts go. The Great Debaters was good, a very interesting project. Fences comes along during award season hype and some of the performances were getting rave reviews. Naturally, being the cinephile I am, I had to see it for myself to form my opinion on the film and performances.
The film is based on a play and is about a man named Tony and his wife Rose and their relationships with their children, friends, and family as time goes on. The problem is Tony and his son do not get along and there seems to be respectful animosity between the two. The film also deals with issues like blue collar working life, the changing times, infidelity, and the limitation of career opportunities for black people in the 1950s. The setting of the film is very contained, I’d say 85% of the film takes place in the backyard of the Maxon house. I’m sure this is how the stage is set in the play and I found it to be perfectly okay. The film is based on its subject matter, delivery, and acting performances. Without having read the play, I’d say Denzel has done a respectable job of adapting this play.
I think one thing can always go without saying and that is that Viola Davis is so good. Even in a film as bad as Suicide Squad you couldn’t fault her for her convincing performance. She’s rather excellent in this. She becomes a real force towards the end of the film. Denzel Washington is a very reliable actor, in that you can expect him to bring a convincing portrayal to the screen. His Tony Maxon is very unlikable. I’d say he starts off being a middle aged, hard working man who wants to support his family. He seems likable in the beginning with his wise cracks and metaphorical wisdom. As the film rolls along its hard to enjoy his tough love antics, infidelity, and sheer arrogance. At times he’s a pompous asshole who you just want to punch. Tony is unlikable and I think it warrants great credit to Denzel for bringing that emotion to his character. Side note, I also really liked seeing Russel Horsnby in the film, love him on Grimm.
The film is quite long, honestly its a little too long. The film could have been more effective if it were concise and condensed. It still manages to remain interesting, even if you don’t identify or agree with the characters. I’d say Tony’s character is not only flawed but a certain event (or two) seem really out of turn writing-wise, that I wonder if he is written the exact same way in the play. I think we can expect Viola Davis to be up there in the running for an Oscar. As far as the film goes, its carried by excellent performances and strong source material even though everything else is not always perfect.