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View Date: January 12, 2003

Cast

Derek Luke Antwone Fisher
Malcolm David Kelley Antwone  (7)
Cory Hodges Antwone  (14)
Denzel Washington Jerome Davenport
Joy Bryant Cheryl
Salli Richardson Berta
Leonard Howze Pork Chop
Kevin Connolly (I) Slim
Rainoldo Gooding Grayson
Novella Nelson Mrs. Tate
Ellis Williams Reverend Tate 
Yolonda Ross Nadine
De'Angelo Wilson Jesse (19)
Jascha Washington Jesse Age (8)
Vernee Watson-Johnson Annette
Viola Davis Eva
Earl Billings James

Directed by:
Denzel Washington

Written by:
Antwone Fisher

Related Viewings:
Men of Honor (2000)
Secrets & Lies (1996)
Crimson Tide (1995)
Prince of Tides, The (1991)

Official Site:
Antwone Fisher


Also see my reviews at:

 


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Antwone Fisher


On December 6th, 1967, a child was born to a young 19-year old single mother.  The circumstances of his conception are unimportant for the purposes of this review.  He was immediately put up for adoption because his mother could not afford to give him the life that she felt he deserved.  So he was adopted by a loving wonderful family, given every opportunity to grow, excel and learned about the potential of the world around him.  By most standards, he was successful.  He has traveled the world, served his country and always tried to be the best person that he knew how to be.   Yet, his life feels empty, unfulfilled, directionless, empty and frustrating.  The answer to why has baffled him for years.  In Antwone Fisher, the magnificent directorial debut of Denzel Washington, the title character goes through a similar sort of internal conflict.  He lashes out at others, but doesnít completely know why, he talks to and doubts himself often, and lives with the scars of an upbringing that no one should have to go through.  Yet still he perseveres, inspired by people who care, and ultimately finds himself and the answers he seeks.  The story isnít original or unique, but it is true, it is real and it is delivered with the delicate force of a confident storyteller. In all, this film is a painful, yet joyful cinematic experience. 

In the films opening scene, Fisher stands in a golden field, staring up at a white door.  Behind it, is a room full of loving, caring people who welcome him and seem to want him.  Then near the end of the movie, the title character defines his life to someone as I have above.  The scenes are emotional, honest and powerful; a testament to both the writer and the actors performing them.  The themes of these scenes are setup by, and resonate through, the entire film. His life has been a tortured one.  He claims to have come from ďunder a rockĒ, because of all the burdens that have been heaped upon his young life.  He was born in prison, his father died before he was born, his foster mother was controlling, physically and verbally abusive and tore him down at every opportunity. Yet, he never gave up.  He fought forward, he survived, he succeeded despite it all, and this is his story, in all its glory and inspiring splendor.  The movie starts with Fisher being sent to a Navy psychiatrist for his violent temper and outbursts. Washington plays Davenport, the Navy doctor who befriends and becomes a father figure almost, for Fisher.  Slowly he opens up,  tells of his tortured past and starts down the path of finding the answers to the questions he doesn't always understand.  His relationship with Washington is well done, as is his sweet and touching romance with a fellow solider, Cheryl.  Fisher makes confessions and seeks advice from Washington, and ultimately decides the direction to find his answers.  The handing of this story could have been overdone at so many points.  The romance was balanced, real and sweet, the traumas of his early life are never exploited, but given their due in power and emotion, and the relationship with Davenport effectively shows the slowly developing bond between the two.  

For those who donít know, this is based on a true story.  Fisher was a security guard at Sony Pictures, and his story was so intriguing that someone suggested he write his autobiography.  The book, Finding Fish, is the basis for the film, and the actor who portrays him, Derek Luke, was a co-worker who didnít want the film makers to know his connection to Fisher so as not to bias the decision.  As in most true story adaptations, there is a bit of dramatic license, but for the most part I believe most of it is pretty true.  Washington realized that the facts of this story told a pretty strong tale so Iím guessing he didnít tinker with things too much.  Some may see the story as tugging at heartstrings, or overdone for the sake of emotional manipulation, but in truth, Washington hits all the right notes with his delivery.  Even his side story, which I thought at first to be excessive and unnecessary, becomes relevant and is just another nail in the solid foundation of this story.  There are so many amazing scenes in this movie, some shocking, others heartbreaking, and others just simply too powerful and touching for words.  Fisherís abuse by an Aunt, Davenportís Thanksgiving invitation, Fisherís aforementioned confession about his life, and the subsequent scene of a welcoming dinner, so many that Iíve probably left some out, but after you see them, you wonít forget them.

It is hard to imagine someone out acting the amazing Denzel Washington, but newcomer Derek Luke may have just done it.  His portrayal is incendiary, touching, heartfelt and intense.  He gives Fisher a sense of empathy where most would have given up long ago.  It is hard to believe this is his first movie, because he gives the character a complexity and depth that some seasoned actors still havenít mastered.  The Academy should take note of him along with Alison Lohman (White Oleander), as they did with Edward Norton in Primal Fear.  Yes, his performance is that good.  There is something about Denzel and a uniform that brings out great performances.  Films like Glory, Crimson Tide, Training Day and now here show that he can still shine even in the background.  This is a sign of a modest storyteller and talented actor.  Washington shows yet another facet of his repertoire by being able to step out of the spotlight, yet still shine.  As a director, he shows the patience to realize that fancy camera tricks and angles arenít necessary when the subject matter is this powerful.  He simply lets the story tell itself and focuses the camera in the right places at the right times.  As an actor, he still manages to give a memorable turn as a doctor who changes one manís life, while also discovering something about himself. 

Ultimately, Antwone Fisher is an inspiring portrayal about finding who you are, by discovering who you were.  The search for answers and our purpose in life cannot always be found inside ourselves.  Sometimes we need help, we need other people to show us, guide us, and help us along the way.  This is a movie about a man who finds all these things, and discovers that life can be a happy place with the right people in your life.   This movie will have different effects on different people, but if it doesn't touch you down the depths of your being, and make you cry in appreciation and admiration, then you you need to get a heart.  Maybe this movies relation to my own experiences intensified its effect on me. Yes, I was the person mentioned above, and although I did have a much better upbringing, I still suffer from the doubts, the conflicts and the unknown aspects of my purpose in life.  There are answers I do not know, and in light of this movie and other recent events, I am now more determined than ever to find my answers, my purpose, and my reason for being here.  Thank you Denzel, thank you Antwone, and thank you to everyone in my life who has cared Antwone Fisher has left an indelible mark on my life, and I think it will on yours as well.