“Fences” often gets called the African American response to “Death of a Salesman”. While I respect Miller, this feels rather trite. “Fences” is a study of a man that doesn’t fail because he’s weak. Troy Maxson fails because he’s hit that glass ceiling so hard that his bloody knuckles are leaking back onto his family members. When his son has a chance to play college football, Troy is quick to shut it down. His son can’t rise past a certain point, because he never got the chance to become better.
Troy will fight his way slowly through the ranks of local garbage men, but he does it on the back of others. He weighs down his wife’s job ambitions, then he prays upon his brother’s disability checks. While “Death of a Salesman” was a tale about the downside of American success, “Fences” is always looking up from the bottom. Willie Loman had the chance to become better and make a better way through life. Troy Maxson got scraps and built a world out of them. The kicker was that it’s a world for himself.
Watching what Troy’s family has to endure throughout the third act and their eventual repressed resentment of the man is quite staggering. I saw this film shortly after checking out the Shout Factory Blu of the 1985 presentation of “Salesman”. The split between how the Lomans and Maxsons handle their problems is so defined. Viola Davis continues to be one of the best actresses working and she does so much with a role that could’ve become nil. The film will pick up a few Oscar nominations, so check out your local theater’s Festival Screening Series come Awards time. You won’t regret it. I’d ask that you read Wilson’s original play, but I know the audience.
- 2 hrs and 19 mins