Antwone Fisher

Antwone Fisher
Film review by: Witney Seibold

antwone fisher
            When actors direct, often they make intense character dramas; opportunities for actors, chances to play meaty roles and have many Dramatic Moments. Sometimes this works well, and we’re treated to an unconventional, almost theatrical battle of pain and wits (Tim Roth’s “The War Zone,” for example). Sometimes it doesn’t work, as in Denzel Washington’s “Antwone Fisher.” We’re given Dramatic Moments, but I was surprised at how…phony it was. This is especially surprising, as the film was written by the real Antwone Fisher.
            The film is the true story of Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke), a bitter young Naval officer who is assigned to go see Dr. Davenport (Washington), a military shrink. The two of them work through Fisher’s rocky childhood, abused in horrible ways in a Foster home, abandoned at every turn. Eventually Fisher works through his pain, begins dating an attractive Naval bookseller (Joy Bryant), and goes to find his real parents. He also is seen as a talented, calm and loving man who was only living half his potential.
By telling you that he works through his pain in the end, I have ruined nothing. While the chance to finally do some real acting is not wasted on this cast, the story is far too straightforward, and the healing too easy and quickly to even approach believable. As anyone who has even been in therapy knows, there is no “cure” to a psychological trauma or problem. There is just understanding it, learning to live with it more easily, and surviving. This film has a sugar-coated version of trauma in which an acknowledgement and confrontation can erase the problem. It’s unreal and poorly executed. The psychiatrist becomes too emotionally involved, and actually stands in as Antwone’s father. That’s dangerous grounds in psychiatry, and is not even addressed.
            This is not to say the film is without its merits. The acting, as I have said, is rather good, and there is a certain visual flair, especially in the flashbacks, that incorporates rich earthy colors. Unfortunately, Washington chose to make things so slick, so sweet, so “Hollywood” that most of the dramatic power is, at best, fleeting.

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Published in: on May 12, 2009 at 11:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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