August Wilson’s normally hard-hitting play Fences falls rather flat on the big screen thanks to an overlong and dull adaptation which is only slightly saved by Viola Davis’ stunning performance.
Previous attempts to bring August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Fences to the big screen have been futile but finally director Denzel Washington has done it and it is even nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture.
A revival of the 2010 Tony award-winning Broadway staging of the play, Washington reprises his role as Troy Maxson, a working-class African-American garbage collector who is trying to raise his family in the 1950s.
Now, I am sure the play is normally punchy, dramatic and moving but this is mostly lost as it is painfully dragged out on screen meaning that it is episodic and monotonous instead.
Adapting a play for cinema is never easy to be fair to Washington however it has been done fantastically in the past; just look at examples such as Amadeus and the many successful Shakespeare film adaptations.
However, with Fences it feels like we are simply watching a filmed version of the Broadway staging with pretty much no alterations making it unfortunately extremely stagy.
This is a big problem as, very importantly, this is a film; if I wanted to go see a staging of a play I would have paid to have gone to the theatre instead.
Standing at nearly two and a half hours long Fences is lengthy and so the screenplay is stretched out meaning that it loses pace, drama and impact.
Some scenes do pack a punch though and this is thanks to the spectacular cast and moments of fantastic writing.
Washington is so good as Troy we forget that he is an actor as he becomes a man possessed by the raw and complex patriarch that he is playing.
Astonishingly though the film does not belong to Washington as the ever wonderful Viola Davis blows us away with her stunning performance as Troy’s dedicated wife Rose, which is sure to win her that Best Supporting Actress Oscar that she is nominated for.
Vulnerable yet emanating power Davis effortlessly brings to life Rose and I challenge you to find a better example of acting than the tearful monologue she delivers when Troy reveals his selfish nature.
Although there are powerfully dramatic scenes they become lost in a tedious overlong screenplay that really needed to be viciously cut down.
Also considering this is a film about family it does rather lack a heart and this isn’t just because the main character is hideous and incredibly unlikeable.
More thought definitely needed to be put into this film adaptation to avoid the overall stagy and tedious nature of the screenplay however, the striking performances and arresting scenes makes Fences a decent drama.
Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.