Year: 2016
Rating: PG-13
Length: 139 minutes / 2.32 hours

Before going into this film, I knew it was based on a play of the same name. Of course, even if I didn’t know this, I could have told you it was based on a play. Perhaps that’s what kept bugging me throughout this movie: it was clearly a play. I could see in my mind’s eye how it would look on the stage, which wasn’t helped by the actors’ cadence and almost continual monologues. If I wanted to see this as a play, I’d see it as a play; I watch a movie to get a more well-rounded experience.

So, aside from this film being an almost direct adaptation of the play it’s based on, the next thing that caught my attention was how many tropes were contained in the plot. Honestly, with topics like mental health, marital infidelity, inter-generational conflict, and death, the plot didn’t seem that original to me at all. Add to this, one of the main characters (Denzel Washington’s Troy Maxon) who rambles nonsense half the time and just straight-up poor decisions the other half of the time, and I had trouble even paying attention to what was happening. Life cannot be so simply condensed to baseball metaphors.

Of course, while many elements in this movie irked me, the total of their parts ended up being somewhat tolerable. This was mainly due to the stellar performance by Viola Davis, which earned her the Best Actress Oscar. By the end of the film, despite very few surprises, the finale is at least satisfying and fitting. I’m just disappointed that more of the extensive and immersive capabilities of movies weren’t utilized to bring this plot a greater depth than just a one-for-one transfer from the stage.

A theater play wrapped in a film’s skin, I give Fences 3.0 stars out of 5.

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