2016 | Drama | 139 minutes | In English
Troy Maxson and his long-time pal Jim Bono work as garbage collectors in 1950s Pittsburgh. Troy has had a tough life. He left home when he was 14 after beating his abusive father. He ended up in jail when he committed crimes to support himself. Mostly, Troy, a gifted baseball player in the Negro League, was unable to make it to the Major Leagues as they had no black players. He never forgot this. Troy is a robust talkative person married to the gentle soft-spoken Rose. Cory, Troy’s son, informs his parents he may be getting a college football scholarship. This angers Troy, possibly because he never got such an opportunity. A heartsick Cory decides to join the Marines. Troy is also a philanderer. He has an affair with Alberta and impregnates her. She delivers a baby girl but dies in childbirth. Troy now must confront Rose with this predicament. Rose is furious and she vents her anger and her hurt at Troy. But she does agree to raise the baby as their own. Rose becomes the glue as she attempts to hold the family together.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 92%
- Metacritic Score: 79
American Film Institute (AFI): Selected as one of the top ten films of 2016
Academy Awards: Winner, Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis); Nominated, Best Actor (Denzel Washington)
Golden Globes: Nominated, Best Actor (Denzel Washington); Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis)
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FENCES is a film about how our environment shapes us, and how, no matter how noble their intentions, our parents can’t help but mess us up in some fashion, just as their parents had done for them. It’s so painful, it’s almost unwatchable. In fact, anyone who had a strict taskmaster as a parent will find parts of FENCES unendurable. Perhaps the most brutally honest thing Rose tells Cory near the film’s end is that he’s just like Troy. Cory’s acceptance of this truth, represented in his co-opting of the song Troy used to sing, is as heartbreaking as it is beautiful. Whether we want it or not, this is our legacy.
Denzel Washington’s voice is a mighty instrument, and if you closed your eyes and just listed to FENCES you would hear a verbal performance of unmatched force and nuance. Viola Davis has fewer lines, but as the story of their marriage unfolds, the center of gravity shifts quietly and inexorably in her direction. Rose’s plain-spokenness is the necessary counterweight to her husband’s grandiloquence.
FENCES is one of the extraordinary jewels in August Wilson’s crowning achievement: a cycle of ten plays written about the black experience in America for each decade of the 20th century. FENCES is the kind of thoughtful story that may encourage folks to judge less and love more. Denzel Washington has pledged to bring all of the plays in the cycle to the screen. The good news is he started with a home run.
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