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Troy (played by Denzel Washington, who also directs) and Rose (Viola Davis) have been married for 18 years. He works as a garbage collector and once played in the Negro league but was too old to play in the majors once the color barrier in baseball had been broken. He works day in and day out, always working for Friday, and dutifully brings food and his pay every Friday to Rose. There is a lot going on in this film, which takes play in the 1950’s. It is a story of father and son relationships and how culture helps them flourish and also hinders them. He has a son from a previous marriage who shows up on paydays for a loan from Troy, and he has a son, Cory, from his current marriage with Rose, upon whom Troy seems to take out his frustration and rage. It is a film about sacrifices made and their consequences. I have to say that, while I never did see the stage play, the movie felt too much like it was trying to recreate what can only happen on stage, and it felt rather “stilted” at times. But the performances, by Washington and Davis, are phenomenal. Washington seems to channel his own inner anger and frustration in spellbinding dialog. Davis has one scene in particular during which she talks about her own sacrifices that is heartbreaking and breathtaking. Thumbs up from me for a film that should be seen for the dialog and performances. I would love to see this on the stage at some point; I think the more minimalist set and intimate feel would make this an experience that the film version didn’t quite hit (similar to my reaction to August: Osage County a few years ago).

About Gary Burkholder

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