Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Denzel Washington|
|Screenplay by||August Wilson|
by August Wilson
|Music by||Marcelo Zarvos|
|Cinematography||Charlotte Bruus Christensen|
|Edited by||Hughes Winborne|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$64.4 million|
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 1985 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.
Fences was released in the United States on December 16, 2016, by Paramount Pictures. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise directed at Washington's performance and direction, Davis's performance, the screenplay, pacing, cinematography and emotional tone. Critics found the film "extremely powerful and effective." It was also a commercial success, grossing $64 million against a $24 million production budget.
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.
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. Troy's 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 Pearl's" 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, Troy's son from a previous relationship, visits him on Troy's payday to borrow money; this upsets Troy, who believes a man has a responsibility to work hard 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 Cory's 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 Cory's attempts to convince him that he will work weekends instead of during the week.
After complaining about his company's 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 Taylor's (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 Gabriel's pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabriel to be institutionalized. The other half of Gabe's 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 Rose's 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 Troy's 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.
- Denzel Washington as Troy Maxson
- Viola Davis as Rose Lee Maxson
- Stephen McKinley Henderson as Jim Bono
- Jovan Adepo as Cory Maxson
- Russell Hornsby as Lyons Maxson
- Mykelti Williamson as Gabriel Maxson
- Saniyya Sidney as Raynell Maxson
Previous attempts to adapt Fences for the screen had been fruitless, partly due to Wilson's 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 Wilson's work, saying, "The star of the movie is the screenplay and August Wilson's words. What Denzel said to me, to Scott, to all the actors, the cinematographer, and the production designer was, 'Don't make any decision without August Wilson's words leading you to make that decision.' Whatever you do, let the words inform your decision first. That's 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 film's score.
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.
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 five 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.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 268 reviews, with an average rating of 7.70/10. The site's 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 don't get groundbreaking cinema from Fences, but what you do get – two titanic performances and an immeasurable American drama – makes up for that." Catherine Shoard of Guardian gave 4 out of 5 stars and praised the performances of Washington and Davis saying " Denzel Washington and Viola Davis set to convert Tonys to Oscars. " Terrl White of Empire gave a full 5 stars and calling the film " A simply extraordinary film without crashes, bangs and wallops but full of towering performances delivered with intelligence, power and heart. "  A.0. Scott of New York Times gave a positive review and highlighted the performances of Washington and Davis by saying " If the sound were to suddenly fail — or if the dialogue were dubbed into Martian — the impact of the performances would still be palpable. "  Owen Gleiberman of Variety also gave a positive review and praising the performances by saying " The acting is all superb. " 
In a negative review, David Edelstein of New York wrote, "It's not cinematic enough to make you forget you're watching something conceived for another, more spatially constricted medium, but it's too cinematic to capture the intensity, the concentration, of a great theatrical event."
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Crawley, Dave (June 14, 2016). "Denzel Washington's Production Of "Fences" Wraps Filming In The Hill District". CBS Pittsburgh. CBS Local Media. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
in the playwright’s native Hill District in 1957.
- Fences (2016), retrieved 2020-10-03
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- Sean Devereaux (September 27, 2016). "FENCES is a true work of art. I am so proud to be a part of it. SaveTheDate, this is the film to see this Christmas!". Twitter. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
- "Marcelo Zarvos to Score Denzel Washington's 'Fences'". FilmMusicReporter.com. October 4, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
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- Mendelson, Scott (December 26, 2016). "Box Office: 'Sing' Soars, 'Passengers' Recovers, 'Fences' Breaks Out On Christmas Day". Forbes. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
expanded ... to 2,223 theaters yesterday after keeping it in limited release for the last 10 days. The August Wilson adaptation earned a smashing $6.688 million opening day, ... long term predictions are challenging for this $20–$25m production ... but this is a smashingly impressive single-day debut for a film that will absolutely be a big part of the Oscar conversation. It has earned $11.528m thus far.
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- Hunt, Bill. "The Digital Bits". Fences official, plus the 4K floodgates are opening: Gladiator, Bridge on the River Kwai & more are on the way. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
- "'Rogue One' Flying To $152M+ Weekend; 'Collateral Beauty' A Career B.O. Low For Will Smith: PM Update". Deadline Hollywood.
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In other "new wide release" news, Paramount/Viacom Inc. expanded the Denzel Washington/Viola Davis drama Fences to 2,223 theaters yesterday
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- David Edelstein (December 23, 2016). "Denzel Washington's Fences Gets Stuck Between Stage and Screen". Vulture. New York Magazine. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
There's a literal fence at the center of Fences, but it doesn't resonate onscreen the way it does onstage. It's not a living metaphor. Troy, a gifted baseball player, was fenced-out of the major leagues when he was young but was too old to strut his stuff when he emerged after a long stint in prison. Now, he sees fences everywhere. The fence that he's building, though, underscores the barrier he has erected between him and his sons, one from each of his marriages.
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