Fences – Movie Review by Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

by August Wilson, Directed by Denzel Washington

When you go to see FENCES (and I urge you to go), don’t expect to see a movie.  Expect a play on the big screen.  Like those FATHOM EVENTS or the MET OPERA HD LIVE BROADCASTS in movie theaters.  August Wilson’s play is profound and when his writing is coupled with the actors’ close-ups, depths of character are on display. Still, it takes a bit getting used to.  The dialogue is poetic–musical and rhythmic with ideas and images that crackle and pop–but we’re just not accustomed to this much dialogue in movies these days. It’s a true “talkie.”  For all that, director / actor Denzel Washington wisely kept FENCES a play-on-film.  How else could he be true to the character he plays with such bravado: the extroverted, extremely chatty TROY?  Denzel insists we experience Troy as Wilson conceived him—larger-than-life, a grand stander who dances around his angst, hurt and despair to the tune of ATTENTION MUST BE PAID!  Yes, writer and director could have made this a more cinematic experience, and that would have been wonderful, too, but why deprive us of this language and the reality of characters who speak their way through life the way most of us do?

In more than a few ways, FENCES is an African American DEATH OF A SALESMAN although it’s not quite as tragic.  Its pathos is not as draining but it is deeply moving.  I think it’s because Troy is more likeable than Willy Loman (SALESMAN’S central character), and, as an African American in 1950’s and 1960’s USA, he is more complicated.  Troy has more phantoms, more layers of social oppression to navigate than Loman and August Wilson surrounds him with a set of less deflated, more earth-centered family and friends.   Troy’s devoted wife, Rose, has fire in her belly (Viola Davis –WOW!) and her decision to love (yes, friends, love is ultimately a “Decision”) brings rays of light into the proceedings.  Also: Troy’s son, Cory (played by Jovan Adepo, a natural) has more going for him than Willy Loman’s sons.  The primary reason for that is Loman and sons lived in a fantasy world of Willie’s own making–his version of “The American Dream;” his misguided definition of “success.” In contrast, Troy, the patriarch of Wilson’s drama, has taken a very hard look at America and all the prejudices and limitations it imposes on African American life.  It is his blessing and his curse, his wisdom and his folly.  His tragedy is that he transmits his pain, intentionally and unintentionally, on his wife and son without ever transcending it.  Is it because he cannot or will not aspire to reclaim a different, richer dignity? The answer is “YES: to both.  Which is why Rose reaches a nobility her husband can only covet.  And that is sad, indeed, for unlike so many fathers who abandon their wives, girlfriends and children in search of some other kind of manhood, Troy takes responsibility for his family, extended family and friends.  His tragedy is that he is not fully present to the life he leads. Instead he indulges an undercurrent of resentment, chasing phantoms of release rather than being at ease in the stillness of sacred silence.  But we cannot judge him. He had had a moment of being on the cusp of greatness- a major league baseball career, for if not for social bias toward race, age and its obsession with youth (yes, even THEN), he could have been a contender.  And he, and we, live in a culture that values little else. God help us.

The power of FENCES—its situation and ideas, the faces of its characters—lingers profoundly long after watching it.  I guarantee your appreciation for the film will grow in the days and weeks ahead just as it has in the world’s response to Arthur Miller’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN and Lorraine Hansberry’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN with which this photographed film has a strong affinity.  The play is alive with exciting performances of flawed but fascinating people who convey many truths about the nature of marriage, parenting, family and friendship.  I hope you will treat yourself to experience some of the depth of drive and feeling FENCES evokes—feelings we too often sublimate or eschew.    Of this much you can be sure: as you gather for celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and a Brand-New-Year, your investment in FENCES will offer you and your loved ones a great deal to talk about.

Celebrate Saint Luke the Evangelist Today!

Catholic and Orthodox Christianity celebrate Saint Luke, the Evangelist today, October 18.  He is the author of Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles in what I like to call “the Second Testament” (because the Hebrew Scriptures are certainly “the First Testament.”) If you would like to hear selections from my Luke Live! ministry, go to:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/revjamesmdiluziocsp

“The Mystery and Beauty of God” is Immeasurable

In this weekend’s Sunday ARTS section of the NY TIMES (distributed on Saturdays in NYC), Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist and executive producer for the upcoming film ‘Interstellar’ is cited in a conversation among the film’s three leading players. Actor Matthew McConaughey says “Everything you ask him, he goes, “Well, it’s not this or this. It’s both.” I was like, “Well, where’s the end?” He’s like: “That’s the point. There is no end. No answer you have in astrophysics should ever not lead to another question.” The same answer applies to TRUE SPIRITUALITY. We can know and experience God and yet there will always be more to know and other aspects far beyond our comprehension.  Now there’s an invitation to humility for people of all religions.

HOPE–How Christianity Can Play its Part on the World Stage Part 1

Inspired by watching Religion and Ethics on PBS this morning, I would like to begin a series of reflections on what part Christianity can play on the world stage today.  At its core, Christianity offers HOPE, a hope centered in– but not limited to– the promise of Resurrection and eternal life. In truth, what Christians call “the Easter mystery” must echo in daily life, giving evidence of its reality in all human dimensions.  When taken in the full scope of its Judaic foundation, the Resurrection’s import is not only future-directed but extends to the past, present and future equally.  Only when hope is afforded its complete multi-directional realities can its ultimate gift—the celebration of the “eternal now,” (some prefer the phrase “the perfect present”)—be realized.

Living in “the eternal now” imbues the present with transformative power.  The reality of Resurrection offers Christians the capacity to heal the fears, the hurts, regrets and resentments of the past and move forward in humility and truth.   Indeed, Christian hope grounds itself in humility, insisting that Christians cultivate knowledge of history with a spirit of truth, never denying its individual and collective wrongdoing but neither ignoring nor discounting its positive contributions.  This Hope-infused-truth allows present choices to be informed by the past so that with prayerful care, the past does not perpetuate its harm into the future.  Christianity can achieve its greatest human potential when Christians invite people grounded in other religions, philosophies and cultures to identify either the same or parallel expressions of hope with humility and truth, identifying and building upon a cultivated “Common Ground” in the present moving toward a more humane and compassionate future.

In the coming weeks I will explore exactly how the Christian story, its history and daily experience of Christians today supports this HOPE.  I invite Christian readers to share their insights so that together we may embrace Resurrection Hope most fully.  I also invite people of other faiths and backgrounds to share HOPE perspectives in their beliefs, concepts and/or faith experiences.  Together we just might be able to identify and apply common ground principles, evidencing hope through mutual respect and celebration of the best of our humanity.

Read this book and set yourself FREE!

Having listen to the soundtrack from BEGIN AGAIN quite a bit (even in my dreams) I decided to return to the Original Broadway Cast of ONCE. The haunting song “Falling Slowly” now repeats and echoes in my imagination, especially the line “You have suffered enough, at war with yourself, it’s time that you won.” If that resonates with you, read HEALING YOUR ALONE-NESS: Finding Love and Wholeness through Your Inner Child by Margaret Paul. If you want to appropriate The Gospel in healthy ways–and for my friends in the Jewish and other faith communities: to appropriate God’s love for you in a most healthy way, READ THIS BOOK. I return to it frequently. Here’s a link:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/healing-your-aloneness-erika-chopich/1111737208?ean=9780062501493