For his directorial debut, actor Denzel Washington (John Q., Training Day) chose Antwone Fisher, the true life-affirming story of Fisher, who wrote the screenplay himself. It is a safe movie for Washington because it deals with heroic people overcoming obstacles and provides a number of meaty roles for himself and newcomers Derek Luke and Joy Bryant. With a script as sentimental and weepy as that of Fisher, the hard part is to make it seem convincing. Washington is able to make the characters come across as sincere, turning an otherwise sometimes overly sappy story into a strong one. Fisher traces the journey of the title character (Luke) as he undergoes a personal journey of redemption, aided by psychologist Jerome Davenport. It makes extensive use of flashback to further illuminate why Fisher is the person he is today.
Fisher has a huge problem with anger, and it rears its ugly head after he enlists in the Navy. His commanders send him to Davenport after Fisher punches a superior, and Fisher initially refuses to open up at all. Davenport can see through this macho facade, and calls Fisher's bluffs of bravado, and soon Fisher begins telling his life story. His father died before he was born, and his mother was in prison at the time of his birth. She abandoned him, leaving him to some horrific experiences in a foster home. These experiences left him with a huge attitude problem, which periodically rears its ugly head. As Fisher opens up to Davenport, he begins treating Davenport like the father he never knew. At the same time, a new relationship with Cheryl (Bryant), another Naval enlistee, spurs Fisher to change for the better, since he doesn't want to mess things up.
The script eventually turns to Fisher's parents. In order to discover who he really is, Davenport feels that Fisher needs to truly discover who his parents are. As always, Washington is good. This time, he takes a supporting role in order to let Bryant and Luke shine. They are bright new actors who work well with this material. Luke ably handles the huge emotional swings of the Fisher character, who can move quickly from shyness to rage. It is also good how Washington takes the time to slowly develop the relationship between Joy and Fisher. It really feels like two people getting to know each other, as opposed to two characters hooking up as is often the case. This is a pretty conventional and average material wrapped up nicely with a surprising amount of genuine emotion. Washington lays it on pretty thick so that by the time Antwone Fisher is over, the feeling is nearly palpable. But he does it with enough style and restraint that the emotion is real instead of fake.
|Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.|
|1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, language, and mature thematic material involving child abuse.|
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