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The Griffin

Cast captivates, plot misses mark

Jason Fontelieu, Deputy Editor

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If this year’s Oscars are anything like the Screen Actors Guild Awards, then “Fences” and its cast are in for a well-deserved hefty haul.

An adaptation of a play of the same name, “Fences” follows Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) in the story of a common man and his struggles. What makes this so subtly poignant is that it’s a story unrelated to race, just regular people who happen to be African American.

Washington gives a commanding performance from start to finish, confidently playing an affable, charismatic garbage man. He is well able to engage the audience with his storytelling, as if he was speaking directly to them. His spitfire cynicism is consistent throughout, during his best and worst moments alike. The onscreen chemistry with Davis is immediate and unbounded, with their obvious mutual adoration and moral sense of spousal duty.

In addition, Davis captivates the spotlight in several crucial scenes, where she gushes in a catharsis of tears and shot, all in anguish over the actions of Troy. She struggles to maintain a level head, but does so beautifully, dealing with the consequences of his actions herself with a smile on her face but a cold shoulder to her husband.

A solid grounding for the film and its shockingly realistic nature is exemplified by the majority of the film taking place within the Maxson’s house, giving an unwaveringly familiar feeling to the viewer.

One of Troy’s burdens is his need to build a fence in his backyard, with the help of his son Cory (Jovan Adepo). The viewer faces varying motives why Troy feels such a deep responsibility for to build the fence. Is he building it to keep others out from interfering with his marriage to Rose? Is he trying to keep Cory in, preventing his success as an aspiring football star, jealous of him because of his own failure to build a professional baseball career? It’s up to the viewer to decipher.

The film’s nomination for Best Picture came as a surprise to me, where the individual actors’ felt better showcased than the cumulative picture, due to many main plot points being conversations and monologues and the information brought to light during.

Washington and Davis both shine equally bright acting is such a tragic, dramatic story. Washington’s undeniably likable persona prevents one from hating him for his mess-ups, and Davis’ tender solidarity nags at the warrant for a better life for her. Their performances alone justify watching “Fences.”

 

Playing at Cinemark Towson, Senator Theatre (Baltimore), AMC Owings Mills

 

2 hr. 13 min

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