Thursday, January 26, 2017

Fences - 4 nominations

Best Picture - Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington and Todd Black
Actor in a Leading Role - Denzel Washington
Actress in a Supporting Role - Viola Davis
Adapted Screenplay - August Wilson

Adapted from the powerful Tony award winning play by August Wilson, Fences tells the story of a man disappointed with his life, and the destruction he causes to his relationships having never resolved that unsettled past.  A failed baseball player in his youth, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) makes his living as a sanitation worker, and makes his life with second wife Rose (Viola Davis), who adores her husband and apologizes for his bad behavior.  Sometimes that manifests in how he treats his children and she is very aware of his extra-curricular romps with other women behind her back. His best friend, powerfully played by Stephen Henderson, tries his best to serve as Troy's Jiminy Cricket, reminding him of the perils of choosing bad behavior.

The film is contained with very few settings in which action happens, reminding us of the constriction of a very small life.  I have heard criticism that the film feels too much like a play on the stage just popped up onto the big screen, but I saw it differently.  Yes, the dialogue sounds more like a play with long monologues and booming emotion.  But it works.  Oh how it works.

Washington is, as always, brilliant in this role, and the fact that Washington and Davis played these roles in this play together on Broadway for more than a year means that their connection is electric.  But I will go one step further and proclaim that this was Viola Davis at her best, and if I had to pick a "best of the best" performance among all actors nominated in all four acting categories, I would crown Ms. Davis the winner by a mile and more.  That in a year when so many of the nominated performances were powerful and important.  I am prepared to call this race for Davis, even now before the buzz gets hot and heavy.

If you can get past the play-like nature of this film, you'll be truly blown away.

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