*** stars (out of four)
After a couple of failed attempts, August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences has a big screen adaptation courtesy of director/star Denzel Washington.
The film follows Troy (Washington), a garbageman and former Negro League baseball standout, in post-WWII Pittsburgh. He’s married to Rose (Viola Davis) and frequently squabbles with their son (Jovan Adepo). There isn’t much in the way of plot, but the movie provides illuminating glimpses into what life was like for working class African-Americans in the years after WWII.
Troy is frustrated with his job and bitter over the fact that he never had a chance to play baseball in the big leagues because he was too old by the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. His bitterness frequently rears its ugly head when he’s asked by his son for permission to join a college football team. His boredom and frustration show when he cheats on his devoted wife.
As expected, Washington and Davis deliver excellent performances. Wilson’s script also has interesting things to say about how sons often inherit the best and worst of their fathers. But, like many plays adapted to film, it sometimes feels too stagey. The dialogue is at times a little too heavy on monologues.
That said, fans of the play and fans of Washington and Davis should find the film worthwhile.