Movie Reviews: Gold and Fences

Gold

Cary, NC – Gold is director Stephen Gaghan’s first movie since 2005’s Syriana starring George Clooney and Matt Damon. While that film proved to be an impressive debut, Gold struggles to to make the same impact, despite featuring another committed turn by star Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar).

McConaughey Gives Another Great Performance

The film tells the true story of Kenny Wells, a down on his luck prospector who stumbled onto to one of the biggest gold finds in history in the jungles of Indonesia. It’s a pretty interesting story – Wells himself is a true character – and McConaughey really goes for it. The actor dons a sizable beer belly and a balding head and slips right into the over-the-top character that Wells is.

McConaughey has been on a roll for a while now and I’m so glad to see that he hasn’t lost that edge that has garnered him so much acclaim these last few years. His performance alone almost makes the film worth seeing.

Film Not As Interesting As True Story

It’s a shame though that Gaghan, who also co-wrote the film, can’t quite keep everything else as interesting. Part of the problem is that the director can’t get a real fix on what the tone should be, going from dark comedy to biopic to adventure at the drop of the hat, making things feel disjointed and confusing.

Skip It

Overall, I must say I’m disappointed with Gold, especially given the potential. Gaghan just couldn’t figure out what kind of movie he wanted to make. McConaughey does an incredible job picking up the slack, and it’s a performance worth seeing, but it’s not enough to recommend a trip to the theater.


Fences

Cary, NC – A lot of people take advantage of “Oscars season” to go and watch the nominated films they might have missed. And one of the most buzzed-about movies, rightfully, is the intense and well-made drama Fences.

Stage to Screen

Fences is originally a play by August Wilson who adapted it for a screenplay shortly before his death in 2005. Now this isn’t looking down at movies at all but Fences clearly has the added sophistication of a stage play. The dialogue, the emotion, the subtleties of the story, all have that little bit extra most movies, even some great movies, do not have.

To simplify the story, Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a husband and father who always falls short of a break and takes it out on the people around him. Mixed in are other complexities, such as his jealousy and frustration with his son’s successes, his secret infidelities and his constant butting-heads with the other members of the neighborhood.

The film dances between being a slice-of-life look at Maxson and his family and a whirlwind of drama as our lead’s mistakes start catching up to him and catching up fast. This makes for an unusual structure that will keep you hooked from the first frame.

Oscar Gold For Sure

Putting the cast last might be burying the lead but it’s worth the wait. Fences is both directed by and starring Denzel Washington (Remember the Titans, Training Day) who has established himself as one of the top American actors, hands down. This is Washington’s third time directing and he has gotten much better, with excellent scenery and character interactions that feel so real, you’d swear you were overhearing an argument on the sidewalk.

While Washington is obviously superb, the show stealer is Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder, Prisoners) as Rose Lee, Troy Maxson’s long-suffering wife. Washington’s character would not have the resonance it does without Davis as the backdrop, showing how Maxson’s life has played out and how he hurts those around him in a myriad of ways. The other nominees for best actress this year are talented, no doubt, but it feels like Davis’ to take.

Go See It

Sometimes there are movies that get talked about so much, they cannot possibly live up to the hype. Fences is not one of those movies. It may not be a feel-good film but if you want a powerful drama, this is a good pick.


Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Gold/Fences).