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Denzel Washington and Viola Davis Step Up to the Plate in ‘Fences’

Inspired by August Wilson’s 1983 play, the Academy Award-winning Fences is an extremely powerful film. With a box office gross of $58.3 million, the phenomenal one-set movie is definitely not one to miss.

In this historical drama, routine and tradition are key. Fences is set in 1950s Pittsburgh, and stars Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson and Viola Davis as his wife, Rose Maxson. Troy is an African-American garbage man, a lush drinker, an expired baseball player, and most of all; depressed. Throughout the plot, Troy is slowly building a fence around their yard at Rose’s request, as referenced in the title. Through the pain and hardships that the family experiences, the fence represents the hold they have on each other, which is what makes it so important to Rose.

Troy, however, is slow to build the fence and doesn’t make it his priority, which runs parallel to his character. He has not moved forward in life for decades and blames his lethargicness on the racial inequalities in the baseball league and his low income.

The film has a straight narrative structure, with a clear and chronological beginning, middle, and end. The dialogue cycles through informal and formal tones: they throw around racial slurs, but command their children to add “sir” and “ma’am” to the ends of their sentences. The film’s set does not reach much beyond the Maxson house and its property, which creates an isolated and stuck-in-the-moment feeling.

The 1950’s epoch is developed efficiently through the wardrobe in the movie. Troy often wears a dark jacket with a kangol cap, and loosely fitting grey dress pants. Rose wears dresses, always covering her shoulders, reaching to her knees, and often times with an apron tied around her waist. The other characters wear outfits that mimic Troy and Rose, which all contribute to the time era because they are so vivid and realistic.

The acting in the movie is outstanding- Viola Davis won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for her representation of Rose.

She accurately portrays a 1950s housewife: loyal, nurturing, hurt. Denzel Washington, confusingly enough, did not win any awards for his role, but is deeply deserving as he shed a bright light on a working man who is forever scarred from racial discrimination.

This story is easy to follow, and not at all predictable. It is a moving film and deserving of many viewers. Given the movie is very lengthy, at 138 minutes; I would warn viewers who tend to be more impatient to stay away. Fences is rated PG-13 for themes, language, and suggestive references. Next time you’re at the theatre, Fences is the movie you should see.

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Written by Elyssa Seltzer

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