ⓘ Fences (film)

Fences (film)

ⓘ Fences (film)

Fences is a 2016 American period drama film starring, produced and directed by Denzel Washington and written by August Wilson, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. In addition to Washington, the film also stars Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson and Saniyya Sidney.

Principal photography on the film began on April 25, 2016, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Hill District, and wrapped in mid-June 2016. Fences was released in the United States on December 16, 2016, by Paramount Pictures, received positive reviews and grossed $64 million. The film was chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2016, and was nominated for numerous awards, including four Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor Washington, Best Supporting Actress Davis and Best Adapted Screenplay, with Davis winning for her performance. It also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for Washington and a Best Supporting Actress win for Davis.


1. Plot

In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson lives with his wife Rose and their son Cory, and works as a garbage collector alongside his best friend, Jim Bono. Troys younger brother, Gabriel, sustained a head injury in World War II that left him mentally impaired, for which he received a $3.000 government payout that Troy subsequently uses as a down payment on a home for his family. Gabriel has since moved out to live across the street at "Miss Pearls" house, so Troy no longer gets rent money from Gabe, which places the family under financial strain. Gabe sometimes gets in trouble with the law for his erratic behavior. Rose suggests to Troy that Gabe might be better off residing in a hospital.

Troy left home at 14 after beating up his abusive father, and became a robber to sustain himself. While serving prison time for killing a man during a robbery, he met Bono and revealed himself to be a talented baseball player. He then played in the professional Negro Leagues; but he never made it to Major League Baseball, which held a "color barrier" until 1947. Troy claims to have survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth by defeating Death in a wrestling match, upon which Death vowed to return for a rematch.

Lyons, Troys son from a previous relationship, visits him on Troys payday to borrow money; this upsets Troy, who believes a man has a responsibility to find his own way and provide for his family. Rose later tells Troy that Cory is being scouted by a college football team, but Troy is dismissive of Corys chances of playing professional football and refuses to sign the permission slip, saying he does not want Cory to fail in athletics as he did.

Rose asks Troy to build a fence around their house, and Troy asks that Cory help him on Saturdays. On learning that Cory is not working at his after-school job at the A&P because it interferes with football practice, Troy demands that he return to the job, despite Corys attempts to convince him that he will work weekends instead of during the week.

After complaining about his companys racist employment practices, Troy is promoted to driving the garbage truck, becoming the first African-American to do so in Pittsburgh. Bono finds out that Troy is cheating on Rose with Alberta, a woman he sees at Taylors a bar and encourages him to break it off. Troy later finds out that Cory did not return to his job, and so tells the coach that Cory is no longer allowed to play. Troy also refuses to sign papers that would allow Cory to be recruited for college football. Cory lashes out and throws his helmet at Troy, who warns his son not to disrespect him again. Troy who is illiterate signs papers rerouting half of Gabriels pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabriel to be institutionalized. The other half of Gabes pension is to be sent monthly to Troy.

After Troy impregnates Alberta, he is forced to reveal his affair to Rose, which leads to an argument in which Troy aggressively grabs Roses arm. Cory intervenes and knocks Troy into the fence. Months later, Alberta dies in childbirth. Troy angrily challenges "Mr. Death" to another fight.

Troy brings his baby daughter, Raynell, home, and Rose agrees to raise her as her own, but refuses to accept Troy back into her life. Cory is considering enlisting in the United States Marine Corps, having missed his opportunity to attend college with a football scholarship. One day, when Cory returns home, an intoxicated and bitter Troy blocks his path and instigates a fight in which Cory swings at Troy with a baseball bat. Troy grabs the bat from Cory and drives him out of the yard. Disoriented, Troy once again challenges Death to come for him.

Six years later, Troy has died of a heart attack, and Cory, now a USMC corporal, returns home, but informs Rose he will not attend Troys funeral. Rose admits to loving Troy despite his many flaws and pleads that Troy is still a part of Cory. Cory reconsiders after sharing memories of Troy with Raynell. Lyons is serving three years in prison for forgery, and gets a furlough to attend the funeral. Similarly, Gabriel is released from the hospital to attend and reunites with his family as they all bid farewell to Troy. Gabriel plays his trumpet and succeeds on the third try for St. Peter to open the gates of heaven for Troy, and the sun glistens over them.


2. Production

The film was adapted from August Wilsons play Fences. Production culminated in the 2016 release of the film, over a decade after Wilsons death.

Previous attempts to adapt Fences for the screen had been fruitless, partly due to Wilsons insistence on an African-American director. In a 2013 interview with Empire, Denzel Washington expressed his intention to star in and direct an adaptation of Fences, reprising his role from the 2010 Broadway revival of the play, which like the film, was produced by Scott Rudin.

On January 28, 2016, it was reported that Rudin, Washington and Todd Black would produce a film adaptation of the play, directed by Washington and starring Washington and Viola Davis, reprising their roles from the 2010 revival that earned both actors Tony Awards. Playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner came aboard to build on a draft written by Wilson before his death in 2005. However, Wilson is the only credited screenwriter for the film, while Kushner received a co-producer credit. Black explained that Washington insisted that they remain faithful to Wilsons work, saying, "The star of the movie is the screenplay and August Wilsons words. What Denzel said to me, to Scott, to all the actors, the cinematographer, and the production designer was, Dont make any decision without August Wilsons words leading you to make that decision. Whatever you do, let the words inform your decision first. Thats what we all had to abide by."

On April 4, 2016, Mykelti Williamson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Stephen McKinley Henderson and Saniyya Sidney joined the cast, with Williamson, Hornsby and Henderson also reprising their roles from the 2010 production.

On April 25, 2016, it was reported that Fences had begun filming in Pittsburgh. On June 14, 2016, principal photography was completed. Post-production was completed in mid-November. Charlotte Bruus Christensen was the director of photography, David Gropman was the production designer, Sharen Davis was the costume designer, Hughes Winborne edited the film, Sean Devereaux was the visual effects supervisor, and Marcelo Zarvos composed the films score.


3. Release

The film held its world premiere at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, California on December 15, 2016. It began a limited release on December 16, 2016, before opening wide in 2.223 theaters on December 25.

Home media

Fences was released on Digital HD on February 24, 2017, and on Blu-ray and DVD on March 14, 2017.


4.1. Reception Box office

Fences grossed $57.7 million in the United States and Canada and $6.7 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $64.4 million, against a production budget of $24 million.

Fences opened in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles on December 16, and was expected to gross $50–75.000 per theater in its limited opening weekend. It ended up making a total of $128.000, good for a per-theater average of $32.000. The film went into wide release 2.223 theaters on Christmas Day and grossed $6.7 million; over its first two days it made $11.5 million. In its first full weekend the following week, the film made $10 million, finishing 6th at the box office.


4.2. Reception Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 256 reviews, with an average rating of 7.64/10. The sites critical consensus reads, "From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged - and still just as powerful." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe wrote, "You dont get groundbreaking cinema from Fences, but what you do get – two titanic performances and an immeasurable American drama – makes up for that."

In a negative review, David Edelstein of New York wrote, "Its not cinematic enough to make you forget youre watching something conceived for another, more spatially constricted medium, but its too cinematic to capture the intensity, the concentration, of a great theatrical event."