Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both won Tony Awards for their performances in the stage version of August Wilson’s passionately acted drama.
This film adaptation is Washington’s third feature outing as director, and his deep understanding of the issues at the heart of a still racially divided America underpins a story which is primarily about difficult family relationships.
Canny, hard-nosed blue-collar worker Troy (Washington) and stoical Rose (Davis) are the parents of three variously troubled boys in 1950s Pittsburgh. The tone is set early on when teenager Cory (Jovan Adepo) asks his dad, “How come you never liked me?” and Troy replies, “What law is there saying I got to like you?” There’s much wit and affection in all the characters, but ultimately it’s a film about secrets and buried emotions.
Director: Antonio Campos.
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Tracy Letts, Michael C. Hall. USA 2016. 120 mins.
The often-underrated Rebecca Hall (The Town, The Prestige) delivers a stunning, nuanced performance as troubled Floridian TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, who shot herself on air in 1974. Frustrated at the lightweight news items she’s obliged to deliver by her boss (Letts, Wiener-Dog, Indignation) and by romantic rejection from her co-anchor (Hall, Dexter), Chubbuck also has a dispiriting home life, and professional ambitions that she gradually realises are unattainable. Eventually she cracks. This being a fact-based drama, we already know the shocking outcome, but director Antonio Campos (Simon Killer) and first-time screenwriter Craig Shilowich deftly build a sense of tension based on recognisable human frailties. Set against the backdrop of a struggling local TV station and Nixon’s impeachment unfolding off-screen, Hall’s complex characterisation galvanises our attention.