Joan Didion wrote that “people respond to a lighted screen in a dark room in the same secret and powerfully irrational way they respond to most sensory stimuli.” This may explain why each of us responded completely differently to Denzel Washington’s Fences, an adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play about a working-class black man and his family, set in the nineteen-fifties. One of us thought that the movie was incredibly well done; all the characters were richly brought to the screen, and the movie captured the pleasure of going to see a play. On the other hand, one of found it to be a tedious, turgid acting exercise, a Hallmark movie on the big screen; a movie that, for the most part, rejects cinematic language. One of us was stirred by Washington’s turn as a complicated paterfamilias; one of us preferred when Washington played a similarly blustery character in Training Day, a part for which he deservingly won Best Actor. Speaking of awards, there’s Viola Davis, heavily photoshopped on the Fences billboard, who may win Best Supporting Actress for playing a decent woman who goes beyond the call of duty. If only decency were honored as much in real life as it is at awards shows.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White