Fences is an August Wilson stage play and now screenplay directed by Denzel Washington. It’s the story of a working-class family in Pittsburgh in the 1950’s. The patriarch of the family is Troy Maxson. The story covers the details of his life – His wife of 18 years, his 17 year old son, his 36 year old son and his best friend with which he works… And a few surprises…

Story: August Wilson achieved critical acclaim for his writings about the black experience before his death in 2005. Fences had been one of those plays, but, had trouble getting to the big screen because Wilson insisted it be directed by an African-American.

Denzel Washington directs and stars in this film and is quoted as saying it was easy for him to do both because of the quality of the writing. I think Fences is at its best as a stage play. The dialogue lends itself to the style of the stage, but, doesn’t sound casual enough for the big screen. The scenes just don’t move at the pace of a film and many of the scenes are too static. The value of Fences as a story is the reality of the black experience in the 1950’s.

Performances: There’s an expectation that Denzel Washington will be great; There’s an expectation that Viola Davis will be great. They’re both great, so, Oscar nominations won’t be for payback from previous snubs or a product of Affirmative Action for the Academy. But, both have already won the award that best fits these performances – The Tony.

Visual: It looks like 1950ish. The wardrobe is exact, the refrigerator looks like an ice box, not a refrigerator. It was shot in Pittsburgh so the backdrop is also exact. At no point do you get the sense it’s modern day – congratulations Denzel Washington.

Rating: B-. Denzel Washington has also said his character is not supposed to be likable. That’s difficult because everyone want to like Denzel Washington. But, this story has to be taken in its entirety and accepted for its time and place. The individual scenes and the isolated moments could give you pause and allow you to drift off, but, stay focused and keep the dots connected.

For another example of the black experience for the purpose of creating even better understanding, see this film. DVD or streaming will do…