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.
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|
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.
In 1950s Pittsburgh, Troy Maxson lives with his wife Rose and their son Cory, and works as a waste 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 used to purchase a home for his family. Gabriel has since moved out, but still lives in the neighborhood, often getting in trouble with the law.
Troy left home at 14 after beating up his abusive father, and became a robber to sustain himself. After 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 had no black players in the years before 1947. Troy claims to have survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth by defeating the Grim Reaper in a fistfight, upon which the Reaper vowed to return for a rematch.
Troy's son from a previous relationship, Lyons, visits him every 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 Cory's chances of reaching the NFL and refuses to sign the permission slip; he does not want Cory to fail as he did.
Rose asks Troy to build a fence around their house, and Troy demands that Cory help him as punishment for not doing his chores. On learning that Cory is not working at his part-time job at the A&P, Troy demands that he return to the job, despite Cory's attempts to convince him that the job is being held for him until football season is over.
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 met at a bar, and tells him to break it off. Troy later finds out that Cory did not return to his job, and forces Cory's coach to kick him off the team. Troy also refuses to meet with the college scout. Cory lashes out and throws his helmet at Troy, who warns his son not to disrespect him again. When called to bail Gabriel out of jail for disturbing the peace, Troy (who is illiterate) signs papers rerouting half of Gabriel's pension to a psychiatric hospital, forcing Gabriel to be institutionalized.
Troy is forced to reveal his affair to Rose when Alberta becomes pregnant, leading to an argument in which Troy aggressively grabs Rose's left arm. Cory intervenes and knocks Troy into the fence. Months later, Alberta dies in childbirth. Troy angrily challenges the Reaper 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. One day, when Cory returns home to collect his things, an intoxicated 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 house. Disoriented, Troy once again challenges the Reaper to come for him.
Six years later, Troy has died of his heart attack, and Cory, now a USMC corporal, returns home, but informs Rose he will not attend the funeral. Rose admits to loving Troy despite his many flaws and pleads that Troy is still a part of him, and Cory later reconsiders after interacting with Raynell. Lyons is serving three years in prison for fraud, and gets 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.
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 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.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 249 reviews, with an average rating of 7.65/10. 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.
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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in the playwright’s native Hill District in 1957.
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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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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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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.