For any director, adapting a stage play for the big screen always poses a risk, and sadly, despite it’s great performances, Denzel’s film Fences falls through it’s own stage trap door.
Based on the August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Denzel Washington stars and directs this tale of a working class African-American father trying to raise his family in the 1950s, whilst coming to terms with his dark past and current day secrets.
It’s not that Fences is a bad movie – on the contrary it’s a good film with tremendous performances from its cast – but it feels too much like a stage play and never establishes itself as a movie in it’s own right.
Watching a play and a movie are two completely different beasts; they don’t translate into each other’s world without serious adaptation. Fences never feels like its been altered to fit for the big screen, instead it feels like Washington and screenwriter August Wilson have taken the scenes from the play that are most significant and simply transferred them onto film.
The way the scenes play out, the singular locations, the remarkably long diatribes of dialogue, and the lack of movement of its characters are all the signatures of a stage play and not a motion picture.
There’s no doubt that Washington gives a terrific performance as a deeply troubled, world-weary husband and father, finding it difficult to bond with his own son and having to cope with his decisions in life. He is also backed by great performances from Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo and Stephen Henderson.
Had it been handled differently, Fences could’ve had the potential to pull off an upset victory at the Oscars, over favorite La La Land, but it’s lack of appreciation of movie structure make this a well performed but lengthy forgettable movie.