Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Fences


13 minutes… 21 minutes…

I’ve barely begun and already I’m counting out the scene – or is it three scenes? – waiting for the switch or at least when Denzel Washington concedes charge of it. The opening minutes of Fences felt as if Troy Maxson (Denzel) was going to carry the story by brute force; talking all the time and appearing in nearly every scene as the focal point and with almost the same energy. 

After 21 minutes I lost track of time but never felt I lost track of Troy in all of 2 hours 18 minutes.  He’s always there, which is not surprising since he’s the lead character but the talking…

Prior to this movie I thought I could withstand any movie that’s all dialogue.  A fact I take pride in sometimes, because most of my peers would chose action over serious drama. At least I can understand a movie with depth, I thought. It’s not the case here. I look at the time as much as I am trying to understand the dialogue, and that’s never a good sign.

The southern way of speaking or is it a southern black way of speaking, I think, made it harder to understand.  Choice of words reminded me of civil war era movies in the American south.  It was nuanced and not the straight up English that would have easily broken through the cobwebs forming in my mind.

Perhaps what really buried movie was that most of the scenes were shot in one house; often at the back lot where soon to be raised was a fence. My eyes were as bored as my ears. I was watching Denzel talk and his co-stars answering.

I know Troy loved his wife Rose (Viola Davis) because he said it out loud sometimes with innuendo in front of his best friend Jim (Stephen Henderson). Never saw pictures of their time together. Lyons (Russel Hornsby) is a son because he says pop and he calls Rose by her first name. I saw him carry I think a guitar case but I’ve never seen him play. Cory (Jovan Adepo), Troy’s son from Rose, loves football.  I also never saw him play much less see his room which I would have imagined was filled sports memorabilia.

Contrary to the movie adage, show don’t tell, Fences did a lot of tell don’t show.  If anything all the movie showed, almost always, was that fence – and I think I understand why. The fence is symbolic of how Troy living in a box – sometimes fences are meant to keep things locked in. 

Troy fought in the World War and saw his brother get injured. He didn’t get into Major Leagues, a fact he often blamed on color; Rose keeps telling it was only old age. Troy picks up garbage every day. He hates it that he’s lived on army checks as guardian for his brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) who is not mentally a child because of the injury. It wounds his pride but he keeps his held up high and did his duty.

Come to think of it there’s no offending white man in the movie. In the two shots, maybe just one of it, the neighborhood they live in is mixed.  And all Troy’s nervousness proved wrong when he became a garbage truck driver after complaining all of them were white.  Rose was right that the world that had rejected Troy was already moving on, changing.  His two sons sought to take advantage of that opportunity but Troy keeps the family with obvious fear and bitterness inside the fence.

A great story actually.  As Troy Maxson is a good husband in fact.  If I may take the view of Rose, as good as Troy is, it gets tiring to hear Denzel yapping all the time. But we stick to him.