So awards season is upon us and you may have noticed a certain Fences gaining a lot of buzz on the circuit, particularly for star Viola Davis who has grabbed a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Here's what you need to know about the film, and why the actress is one of the frontrunners in her field.
It's a project loaded with prestige
Adapted by Oscar-winner Denzel Washington (who also stars) from the late August Wilson's long-running, Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fences is the story of a family man named Troy in 1950s Pittsburgh coming to terms with the failings in his life, and his relationship with his son and wife Rose, played by Viola Davis.
Given the movie is very much an actor-friendly piece, placing more emphasis on performance than visuals, greater attention is subsequently drawn to Viola's role and this may offer her the advantage over her Oscar competitors.
Viola knows this role inside out
Like her co-star, Viola originated her film role on stage in the 2010 Broadway revival of Fences that won her a Tony award (the highest award possible in theatrical circles). Not only does she know this character inside out, never once striking a false note; she also brings with her the weight of all the acclaim that greeted her stage portrayal, another thing that could weight the Oscars in her favour.
She's already an Oscar darling
We all love an actor who has been Oscar nominated in the past but hasn't managed to make it to the podium. Popular opinion seems to back Viola given she's already wowed in films as diverse as Doubt (for which she was also Oscar-nominated), in which she held her own against Meryl Streep, and Far From Heaven.
However it's her rousing performance as Aibileen in Civil Rights drama The Help for which she garnered the widest praise, nabbing yet another Oscar nomination and quietly wowing us as the dignified, put-upon help who recounts the life of a black woman in the American south in the 1960s.
Such an array of superb roles has secured Viola as a popular and versatile actress, with many now clamouring for her to take the Oscars spotlight for Fences.
She's won over the critics
Few things sway the Oscars more than a warm critical reception, and Viola has been greeted with exactly that.
"At the moment Troy’s selfishness is fully revealed, Viola Davis delivers a monologue of tearful, scalding, nose-running agony that shows you one woman’s entire reality breaking down", raves Owen Gleiberman in Variety.
Writes Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly: "Davis... responds with a ferocious slow-building intensity — she makes you feel Rose’s anguish in your guts."
"This is Viola Davis’ show," enthuses David Ehrlich for Indiewire, "and she rules it with an iron fist. Watching Rose come into her power is exhilarating, and Davis threads the needle between strength and survival with a remarkably steady hand."
The movie goes on limited release this Friday, wide release on 17th February and expanded release on 24th February.