Although a small flood of awards season hopeful films are going to be pouring into theaters over the final month of 2016, most of them won't be going into a wide theatrical release in the U.S. until 2017. One buzzed-about movie that is going into general release in December (on Christmas Day, no less) is Fences, the big screen adaptation of the late August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 play of the same name. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis won Tony awards for their performances in a 2010 revival of Wilson's play and reprise their respective roles in the film version; with Washington also calling the shots as director.
Fences features Washington (back) in the role of Troy Maxson, a former professional baseball player-turned garbage collector who lives in Pittsburgh (circa the 1950s) with his wife Rose (Davis), their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) and Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson): Troy's younger brother, who suffered psychological damage from a head injury that he sustained during combat in WWII. Wilson's play and Washington's movie alike revolve around the day to day experiences of Troy and his family as they struggle with race relations, personal demons from their past and Troy coming to terms with where his life has led him so far.
The first trailer released for Fences teases all that, while focusing in particular on a heated exchange between Troy and his son. Paramount Pictures has now released a second Fences trailer (watch it above) that focuses more on the film's story beats in general, as well as Troy's various relationships with the people in his life; including not only Cory and Rose, but also Troy's best friend Bono, as played by respected character actor Stephen Henderson (who also appears in another of this year's big awards season contenders, Manchester By the Sea).
The first wave of reviews for Fences have already made their way online and, after 10 reviews, the film is at a 90% Fresh rating on Rotten tomatoes (with an average score of 7.5/10). To see what critics are saying thus far, check out the review excerpts below (and click on the corresponding links for the full reviews):
The Wrap - Robert Abele
Can you tell ['Fences' was] a play? Absolutely. Does that mean a damn thing? Not when the writing is this richly evocative, and the cast so often soars with it. It’s not just Washington in home-run form, but Viola Davis, too... Together they bring to vivid life the complexities and contradictions in an 18-year marriage built on a sense of duty neither realized was as fragile as it was. It’s a safe bet these in-the-moment powerhouses will be in plenty of accolade-centric conversations for the rest of the season.
THR - Todd McCarthy
In his third outing as a big-screen director... [Denzel] Washington opens up the play's action a bit... All the same, the film cannot shed constant reminders of its theatrical roots, nor of how different theatrical playwriting is from original screenwriting in this day and age... [But 'Fences'] offers enough dramatic meat, boisterous humor and lived-in performances to hook audiences of all stripes.
Indiewire - David Ehrlich
['Fences'] the film is a faithful, ferociously performed adaptation that never finds — or even seeks — a way in which the cinema might compensate for the absent buzz of live theater... If [Denzel] Washington mines the  masterpiece for every scrap of its pathos, he finds precious little of its poetry. But if “Fences” doesn’t quite knock it out of the park, it’s still a clutch double at a time when black stories are struggling to even get on base.
The general theme here is pretty distinct and extends to the other reviews for Fences thus far; namely, that the film boasts powerful performances and solid direction from Washington, but very much feels like a play turned into a movie - mostly for good, though. Assuming that this remains the consensus moving forward, then the odds are Fences won't be able to keep up with such celebrated films as Arrival and the soon-to-be released La La Land in the competition for the Best Picture/Drama prizes this awards season - but it should be a fierce competitor in the acting categories. Davis in particular has never won an Oscar before, but there's a fair chance that she will do so this year - and deservingly so, by the sound of it.
Source: Various [See the above links]
- Fences (2016) release date: Dec 25, 2016