ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  denzel washington

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  113 minutes

RELEASED  -  19 december 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  fox searchlight

OFFICIAL SITE  -  antwone fisher

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $512,500,000
antwone fisher - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from antwone fisher at

buy the dvd from antwone fisher at

a sailor prone to violent outbursts is sent to a naval psychiatrist for help.

a debut film for the director (washington), screenwriter (fisher), and lead actor (luke).


picture from antwone fisher

picture from antwone fisher

picture from antwone fisher


three out of four possible stars

Denzel Washington has finally traveled to the other side of the camera and has produced a respectable, though not incredible directorial debut. Though the film will receive much attention on that score alone, as Washington so recently picked up a Best Actor award at the 2002 Academy Awards, the film is not without its mistakes. The here and there of it is that the film does not go far enough in any direction to really leave a lasting impression on a viewer. Although the emotional turmoil that Antwone Fisher experienced as a child and young adult was no doubt in the extreme, the realization of that strife on screen amounts to something suited more to television dramatics than big screen adaptation.

It should be said that the lack of true gripping narrative in Antwone Fisher results more from faults in story than from its performances. Newcomer Derek Luke, plucked from relative obscurity while working in a movie studio gift shop to star in this film, gives as heartfelt a performance as can be expected, given his own talent and the direction of Washington behind the camera. It is a common thing for feature film directors to take acting classes so as to become familiar with the mental preparation that comes with acting and how it feels to be in front of the camera, rather than behind it.

And Washington seems to have benefited from his lengthy stay in front of the camera, because with this trip behind it, he's brought out a very good performance from Luke. Another newcomer, Joy Bryant, who plays Fisher's girlfriend, "Cheryl," also breathes much life into her character and works well opposite Luke. They have a palpable romantic chemistry that livens up the picture. But as realistic as their relationship seems on the screen, the events surrounding their lives don't always ring as true. The life from then to now that the character of Antwone Fisher travels seems sewn together too neatly by the closing credits.

The really unbearable childhood that the character goes through is shown in bits and pieces through flashbacks, but the meat of those experiences is never given to the audience. It's like the really horrific things happened after the cameras stopped rolling. As if the tortured childhood that Fisher went through was too disturbing to show in its entirety. But the film definitely could have benefited from more spice thrown into each dramatic beat. While there are a few inspirational and forcefully-said speeches by various members of the cast, the film is far from full of them.

And as the picture has been billed by the studio as a drama, the drama of the film should have been more of a slap in the face to viewers, rather than just a shout. But on the other hand, the small comedic moments in the film really give the picture another leg to stand on. Although the film could never be considered a comedy as the serious scenes greatly outnumber the funny, the light humor sprinkled throughout the picture is a nice break from the dramatic. If only the serious nature of this film had been more gripping, the funny moments would have been even more effective.

This film could have used a few more good old-fashioned emotional outbursts. There are two verbal scuffles between Fisher and Washington's "Dr Davenport" (Denzel plays director and actor for this film), and those exchanges are two of the most exciting sequences. Add the need for more raw emotion to the fact that Antwone Fisher's life seems to have ended up as neatly pressed as it could possibly been, and the result is a film that rides the middle ground for much of its screen time. The hurdles that Fisher needed to jump in his adult life were too short. The final act of the movie, which involves Fisher's search for his biological family, takes ten minutes or so on screen, but isn't has hard as it should have been.

Now, granted, this film was written by Antwone Fisher about Antwone Fisher, and the wide latitude usually taken by filmmakers in portraying true events just might not have been taken. It probably would have behooved Fisher to put more "oomph" into the story to propel it to its conclusion. The film begins satisfactorily and although the ending is light, it closes nicely as well, but the middle sags somewhat. And this slowness could have been resolved through story changes. Whether Washington was wary of changing the real life events of Antwone Fisher's live is uncertain. But what is clear is the movie Antwone Fisher is mostly sentimental mush. Good sentimental mush, but mush all the same.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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