The movie captures the myopia of the African-American version of Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman." The pain was palpable. It is set in the 1950s in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Troy, the self-absorbed glad-hander, lives in the past, just like Willy Loman. Because of that he causes great suffering to his devoted wife Rose and his son Cory.
His son from another relationship, like Loman's sons, is a loser. Along the way, Troy fathers yet another child through an affair that breaks Rose. But after the mother dies in childbirth she takes in the baby girl.
It's hard to interpret Rose. Is she an enigma or has she been bullied into surrendering to Troy's demands? However, she's not stuck in delusion. She's the one who tells Troy that his baseball career probably never took off because of his age, not racial bias.
The power of this movie comes from how flawed Troy is and yet how his personality dominates. Sometimes it even wins. In his trash-collecting job, he requests a promotion. A stunner: He gets the driving position he so eloquently argued for.
What Troy resurrects for us who are from badly dysfunctional homes is how one somewhat-charming tyrant can inflict so much emotional and spiritual damage. On the day of his funeral, one wonders if this family will continue to suffer for generations to come. As Cory puts it: His shadow hangs on.
"Fences" was originally a stage play. And some of that stagecraft is preserved in the film. That adds to the visual experience.
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