I could not have picked a more cliché quote as a headline, but damn if doesn’t describe this movie the best. This movie is filled with phenomenal performances from everyone involved and I’m so happy that I’ve watched it.
Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson and directed by Denzel Washington – who should have had Mel fucking Gibson’s directing nomination. Washington is nominated for actor in a leading role, Viola Davies is nominated for actress in a supporting role and the movie is nominated for best picture and adapted screenplay. It so deserves all of them.
The story – set in the 1950’s – revolves around Troy Maxson and his relationships with his family members, his brother Gabe, who suffered a head injury in World War II and is now mentally impaired. His wife Rose and their son Cory, and Troy’s son from previous relationship. Another major character is Troy’s colleague and friend Bono.
What we gather from the story is that Troy is not a particularly good person. He is not a good father nor does it turn out is he a good husband. He is against his oldest son’s choice of career, he reluctantly lends him money, but wont take the money back a week later because then he would loose some of the leverage he has over his son. He is against Cory’s wish to play football in college, because he himself failed at Major League Baseball and he want to both spare his son that experience, but is also jealous that he might become a success. He is a drunk and during the movie we find out he’s been having an affair and is about to become a dad again. The movie ends with the family, now including a little girl, getting ready for Troy’s funeral. Cory still has issues with his dad, as do all of them really, but they’ve worked though them in the passing years. I like that the movie didn’t try to make out that Troy had been a good man. Troy was a difficult man, and his family’s feelings about him are a tangled mess, like in many real life families. The end ties up the movie really well, without making it about how Tory was just misunderstood and a decent man after all, because he really wasn’t.
The scene where he and Rose argue over his infidelity is so powerful and both Washington and Davies knocks it out of the park. As a viewer you hate Troy for needing a place to be himself and being so self-centered that he doesn’t realize how that makes him a horrible person. This is the power of Denzel Washington’s performance, you loathe his character, but he plays the role so well that you can’t look away. Viola Davies is equally amazing, you feel her feelings just by looking at her face.
The chemistry between Washington and Davies is amazing, they play these roles so well and they are so comfortable. The fact that they’ve played these roles in the 2010 Broadway revival makes the characters feel so real and lived in. I would not be surprised if both of them won, because this is amazing. They might not be my personal favourites – I’m still in the process of picking those – but they really did a fantastic job and deserves to be recognized for it.
The fact that it is based on a play is quite clear because there is so much dialogue, bordering on monologues for Troy, but the way the scenes shot with long scenes where the editing is minimal makes it seem natural and more true to life.
The rest of the supporting cast is also quite amazing in their own ways. Mykelti Williamson is fantastic and really shows us in the scenes he is in that the mentally impaired Gabe is more complex than first imagined. I also really liked Jovan Adepo as Cory. He had a quite intensity that suited the character, he was subdued when needed, but also angry and lost at other times.
As I’ve written a lot, you might correctly guess that I loved it, and I haven’t even talked about the fence as a metaphor yet! So quickly, the fence is symbolic of the barrier between father and sons, and also the fence between Troy and his broke dreams. It is also a symbol of Rose trying to fence in her family and keep it together. I love plays, plays have so much meaning to be analysed, since it is inherently more literary than a screenplay, at least if you ask me. Basically, go see the movie.