I had a pretty terrible stepfather growing up; a redneck cop who spent his free time encouraging me not to read, think or grow. When I moved out, I carried this weird mixture of fear and rage with me. I eventually grew up and tried to let it go. I barely think about him anymore, but whenever I do, I still feel my blood boil.
The point of all that autobiographical crap was to preface me telling you that "Fences" absolutely wrecked me from top to bottom. I'm talking ugly crying in a theater filled with strangers and wiping the tears out of my beard before stepping into the lobby wrecked. Now when I think of that man that I spent more than half of my life hating, I only feel sadness, not for me, but for him.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by August Wilson, "Fences" tells the story of Troy Maxson, his wife, Rose, and their son, Cory. Troy's older brother, Gabe, best friend, Bono, and oldest son, Lyons, all dance in and out of the story, but the core are those three characters.
Troy loves the sound of his own voice and holds court in any room he enters. He is easy to smile, but his smile hides bitterness for the life he thinks he should have had. He played baseball in the Negro baseball league, only to be kept out of the Majors by racism and age. Now he's a garbage man and seething underneath his good humor. His relationship with Cory is strained, to say the least, and I couldn't help but see so much of my childhood in their battles.
Denzel Washington's smile is one of the most beautiful and expressive in Hollywood, so watching him channel so much pain and bitterness through it is haunting. This isn't just the best performance of Washington's career, but easily the performance of the year. Viola Davis brings so much power and gravity to the role of Rose that watching her and Washington spar with each other is absolutely magnetic.
"Fences" is an outright masterpiece and it helped me through my stuff. My baggage feels lighter—and even though writing this review made me cry all over again, they're good tears. This is why movies are important.
Dir. Denzel Washington
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX