February 4, 2017

Movie Review: Fences **

If you like August Wilson's plays, and you like seeing them enacted on the screen with little scene change and page after page after page of dialogue (I heard Viola Davis say that her first speech in the film was 35 pages long), you'll like the movie version of Fences.
I'm sure it's no secret which side of the fence I'm on here (pun intended).
August Wilson is too talky for me. There's little action. His work is all about getting into the psyche of the common man, which is fine, but I don't connect to his characters. Not because I'm a middle-class white woman, but because there's not usually anything likable or relateable or sympathetic or vulnerable about them; nothing to connect me to them.
I went to see the movie because of Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Denzel, even though he's nominated for an Academy Award, isn't believable in this role. He sounds like an upper-class black guy trying to sound like a lower-class black guy.
I stayed for an hour and was so worn out by all the yelling and poor-me speeches and his supposedly good-intentioned mistreatment of his son that I walked out.
And see that picture above? That must be an outtake, because there's no smiling in this film. At least not in the first hour.
Even though it's not fair to judge a whole movie by an hour, I'm doing it anyway.
2 stars out of five for Fences.

Theatre reviews: The Bodyguard, Gloria

I'm going to let Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune speak for me on The Bodyguard, the latest Broadway in Chicago offering.
Read his review. He says everything I was thinking, except for this: He appreciates Deborah Cox's (the Rachel character) singing more than I do. Technically she's good but of course she doesn't hold a candle to Whitney. Not that she has to, really, she just needs to put some soul in her singing. Not an easy task when the script is so bland.
And remember that iconic image from the movie promotion back in the 90s? Well, they recreate that scene here in such a gratuitous way, with so little build-up, that people laughed.
As Chris Jones says, the male lead doesn't sing, and what's up with that? Not only does he not sing, there's a karaoke scene to explain why, where he gets up on stage and sounds like a caged cat.
Then, after the show ends, the cast comes out on stage and does some extra dancing and singing, and the show's villain sings a couple lines to Rachel (his, thankfully, is not a singing part), and he sounds pretty much like the Frank character did in the karaoke scene, only this guy was obviously not trying to do that. This felt like he was given an opportunity to show his chops. Kind of pitiful.
This show has no heart, no emotion, no passion and the stars have no chemistry. So...no stars for The Bodyguard.

Don't waste time with The Bodyguard. Instead, go see Gloria at The Goodman. This play is beautifully acted and directed, with snappy, authentic dialogue, and that's what this play is about: cubicle people at a magazine sniping at each other, caring for each other, figuring out who they are and where they're going and their ambition. A crisis in act one changes everything, and that's all I'll say about that - I would not have wanted any hint about what happens.
Act two is all about whose story it is and who should write the book about it and who should make money off of it.
Act three is short, not truly an act, but the curtain comes down for the set change (people started clapping until the word PAUSE appeared on the curtain). This short act seemed unnecessary. The addition of just a few more lines at the end of act two would have made it a perfect place to end.
But all in all, it's a gripping drama.
3-1/2 stars of five for Gloria.