Fences.  Rating: 4 (out of 5).  The film is an adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play, where an African American father struggles with race relations in the US during the 1950s while trying to raise his family and coming to terms with his own life. The movie premieres on VOD on Tuesday, March 14.  The New York Observer calls it “The best ensemble work of the year”

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis
Director: Denzel Washington
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama



USA Today gives the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars, and further writes, “Denzel Washington’s key to directing Fences is unleashing the full prowess of his powerhouse cast of thespians — himself included.”

The Seattle Times says, “Though every performance is splendid, it’s Washington and Davis who create a mesmerizing symphony of emotion, finding both love and tragedy in every look, every line.”

San Francisco Chronicle finds, “If you didn’t know going in, you wouldn’t guess that the lead actor was calling the shots here, such is the sense of ensemble. Still, Washington delivers not only one of the year’s best performances, but one of the best self-directed performances in cinema history.”

Boston Globe thinks, “You don’t get groundbreaking cinema from Fences, but what you do get — two titanic performances and an immeasurable American drama — makes up for that.”

New York Observer calls it “The best ensemble work of the year”

Variety says, “Fences has passages of fierce and moving power, but on screen the play comes off as episodic and more than a bit unwieldy.”

Los Angeles Times observes, “Every moment on screen may not be enthralling, but the moments that are are such knockouts they make the enterprise essential viewing.”

Chicago Sun-Times says, “What works: the brilliant dialogue, and the raw intensity of the performances. It’s a privilege to watch Washington and Davis lay it all on the line.”

New York Magazine (Vulture) finds, “It’s not cinematic enough to make you forget you’re watching something conceived for another, more spatially constricted medium, but it’s too cinematic to capture the intensity, the concentration, of a great theatrical event.”

Village Voice thinks, “Wilson’s tale is an enduring story without easy answers or false triumphs, one that gets more complicated as it ages; all the questions about today’s America still have their echoes in Fences.”

Chicago Tribune observes, “Robust, delicate, sublimely acted and a close cinematic cousin to the theatrical original, director Denzel Washington’s film version of Fences makes up for a lot of overeager or undercooked stage-to-screen adaptations over the decades.”

Entertainment Weekly gives the film an A- rating, and further notes, “Washington and Davis’ performances do just the opposite. They invite us in to an intimate place that’s messy and painful and hard to shake. It’s as good as screen acting gets.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Denzel Washington and Viola Davis know their parts here backward and forward, and they, along with the rest of the fine cast, bat a thousand, hitting both the humorous and serious notes. But with this comes a sense that all the conflicts, jokes and meanings are being smacked right on the nose in vivid close-ups, with nothing left to suggestion, implication and interpretation.”

New York Daily News says, “Washington isn’t a visionary director, something he’s proved before in “The Great Debaters” and “Antwone Fisher.” But he is a fine actor, and if nothing else Fences preserves his career-best performance, as a loving, bullying, wounded, roaring bull of a man.”

Wall Street Journal finds, “It’s all too seldom that a feature film combines brilliant acting with a spellbinding flow of language.”

Christian Science Monitor thinks, “The result, as might be expected, is strong on acting and overly stagey.”

The New York Times observes, “Even as it properly foregrounds Wilson’s dialogue — few playwrights have approached his genius for turning workaday vernacular into poetry — Fences is much more than a filmed reading. Mr. Washington has wisely resisted the temptation to force a lot of unnecessary cinema on the play.”

Washington Post says, “Ringing with both ancient wisdom and searing relevance, Fences feels as if it’s been crafted for the ages, and for this very minute.”

Philadelphia Inquirer gives the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, and further notes, “This isn’t the final word on Troy. Played with great compassion by Washington, he’s also sexy, fun, and charming. Charismatic to the core, he has a devastating sense of humor and an impressive strength of character. His strength, though, is his tragic flaw. Fences hurtles forward with the inevitability of historical change as Troy asserts his iron determination to remain unchanged. The effect is tragic, beautiful, thought-provoking.”

New York Post thinks, “Honorable, worthy and windy, Fences is essentially a PBS episode of “Great Performances” that is inflated for the big screen without ever quite belonging there.”

According to Arizona Republic, “Fences is a feast of brilliant acting, in a story that’s sometimes as difficult as it is powerful.”

Austin Chronicle gives the film 4 out of 5 stars, and further notes, “Washington’s performance here is something to behold. It’s his best yet, and although the character of Troy is a woeful, ugly beast of a man, the actor imbues him with a rough-and-tumble charm.”

Charlotte Observer says, “Denzel Washington directed and stars in Fences, and he has translated every element of August Wilson’s play to the screen: A language that’s naturalistic yet gently poetic, a detailed sense of America at mid-century…drama that turns to melodrama at key points, characterizations that seethe and explode, the touch of the fantastic (or is it the supernatural?) that pervades most of Wilson’s stories.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks, “Fences is perhaps best appreciated as a showcase for the brilliant acting of Washington and Davis.”

Tampa Bay Times observes, “If Fences occasionally feels cinematically inert, it’s emotionally resonant thanks to Davis and Washington the actor, not the director as much.”

The Globe and Mail finds, “In Fences, every time a character opens their mouth is an opportunity to savour the playwright’s impeccable ear for language – for capturing the joys and frustrations that come when someone simply tries to say something – anything – about the daily struggle that is life. It’s as much workaday poetry as it is dialogue and Washington knows better than to dilute it or make it his own.”

The Telegraph gives the movie 4 out of 5 stars, and further writes, “The great coup Washington delivers, beyond framing his co-star’s virtuous anguish so well, is the risky, brilliant, and frequently alienating performance he gives as Troy.”

The Guardian thinks, “This film is conceived as a showcase for its performers, and, as that, it is immaculate.”

CineVue gives the movie 4 out of 5 stars, and further notes, “With the lion’s share of the movie taking place in one location and no soundtrack, some will find Fences insufficiently cinematic. However, with its depth and power, Wilson’s play is a blue-collar Death of a Salesman and the music of the dialogue, with Davis and Washington at the peak of their powers, makes the whole thing sing.”

Time says, “In the end, it feels too much like a school assignment. Washington approaches the material with canonical reverence, but that isn’t the same as shaking it up and bringing it to life on-screen.”

The Film Stage gives the film a B rating, and further writes, “Fences is a reasonably strong adaptation and further evidence that Washington has an assured hand with both actors and the camera, but it feels stuck between its reverence to the source material and its desire for a more distinctive vision.”

TheWrap thinks, “Can you tell it’s 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.”

Empire Online gives the film 5 out of 5 stars, and further notes, “A simply extraordinary film without crashes, bangs and wallops but full of towering performances delivered with intelligence, power and heart.”

Indiewire observes, “Washington, Henderson, Davis, and Hornsby are each “holy shit” great in their own ways, the four of them deepening the dynamics they forged together during their time on stage.”

Movie Nation gives the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, and further notes, “A Great American Play becomes a Great American Film with Fences, Denzel Washington’s letter-faithful adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece.”

According to ReelViews, “Yes, Fences suffers somewhat from the bare-bones transferal of the “action” from stage to screen but the material is so compelling that viewers can easily lose sight of the movie’s “play nature.”“

Time Out London says, “It’s easy to throw accusations of staginess at film adaptations of theatre like this, which honour the limitations of theatre and make only limited attempts to open up the play. But there’s a hothouse atmosphere to this domestic drama that works well on screen.”

RogerEbert.com gives the movie 4 out of 4 stars, and further notes, “The masterful thing about Denzel Washington’s direction here is that he doesn’t exactly open up the play. Instead, he opens up the visual frame around the players.”

Rolling Stone finds, “The movie of Fences doesn’t need Hollywood bells and whistles. This writer, this director and these actors are all the magnificence required to grab your attention and hold it.”

Time Out New York observes, “Wilson’s play, about dreams deferred and a son seeking approbation (The Leftovers’ Jovan Adepo), could have used a more cinematic rethink. But even flatly presented, it has a richness of rage that’s unmistakable.”

According to Screen International, “Fences is a deeply affecting treatise on marriage, poverty and the struggles of sons to confront the long shadow of the man who brought them into this world.”

Slant Magazine says, “Danzel Washington honors the manna of the play’s being: the micro of romantic longing, self-loathing, and nostalgia.”

Total Film gives the movie 4 out of 5 stars, and further notes, “Denzel Washington and Viola Davis excel in a well-crafted drama that’s sure to bring the late August Wilson’s words to a much wider audience.”

Slate thinks, “Fences functions as a faithful—sometimes doggedly faithful—record of a remarkable ensemble performance of one of the great works of American drama. Granted, it’s never exactly a great movie, but given the chance to see actors of this caliber tear into material this rich, you would be foolish to pass up the chance.”

A.V. Club gives the film a B- rating, and further writes, “Washington gives a magnetic, layered performance, backed by a largely superb cast, most of whom reprise their roles from the Broadway revival of Wilson’s classic. But the film itself is eluded by the epic qualities of the original text, which play directly to the captive space of the theater.”

Consequence of Sound observes, “In this instance, the medium just doesn’t elevate the material. That said, Fences is still a gripping watch, but it’s gripping for the reasons the play has always been gripping: the language and performances.”

We Got This Covered says, “Fences is old-school Americana that’s driven by dynamite performances all around, albeit a bit stuffy in nature.”

The Playlist finds, “There’s nothing lost in the translation of Fences, but its high fidelity means there’s little, if any, inspiration to be found within.”


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