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Antwone Fisher
2002 - PG-13 - 117 Mins.
Director: Denzel Washington
Producer: Denzel Washington, Todd Black, Randa Haines
Written By: Antwone Fisher
Starring: Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis
Review by: Carl Langley

Joy Luke Club
Antwone Fisher proves the point that a customary biographical story does not need to center around an unfortunate event or an ultimate accomplishment in life to hold a compelling effect. The autobiography of Antwone Fisher, who also wrote the screenplay, contains tragic incidents from his childhood, but they are not the purpose the story is told. Instead, it reveals Fisher’s search for psychedelic healing from what scarred him in the past and constitutes an overwhelming emotional and emollient film.

The film begins with one of Antwone’s (Derek Luke) phantasmagorias as a child, being welcomed to a dinner table by his relatives, old and young, and it leaves an abiding impact until the end, when it bares its significance. Back to reality, Antwone is a soldier in the U.S. Navy, handed over as a patient to psychiatrist Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington), because he cannot keep his anger under restraint. Davenport is required to determine whether Antwone is sound enough to continue to serve his country or be discharged.

Davenport states that he has only three sessions to shape the hard-pressed adolescent and that the first one does not begin until Antwone speaks first. Initially, Antwone is obstinately silent, wasting the time away each week. But in due time, Antwone succumbs to Davenport’s loose-jointed approach and unveils his atrocious past. Antwone experienced several catastrophic events through his early life. His mother abandoned him and his father was murdered two months after he was born. He was raised in a foster home by two women; one who abused him physically and the other sexually. To make matters worse, his best friend was shot in the head at gunpoint during a robbery attempt. All of these tragedies generated the feeling of desolation, prompting him to join the Navy.

At first, the impression is given that Antwone is a troublemaker by his repeated scuffles with his sailor mates, but it is turned around and in realness, he is a refined, kindhearted kid. Cheryl Smolley (Joy Bryant) is a female sailor who brings out the best of Antwone, as they develop a sweet kinship with each other. Davenport insists that all his troubles are an outcome of his past and that he should confront it by embarking on a search to find his surrogate family. After some hesitancy, Antwone takes his doc’s advice, and with the aid of Cheryl, travels to his home state with hope. I will not say much more because it would give away too much, but the last half hour of the movie is well worth the slowly nurtured early scenes.

The anaclisis between Antwone and Davenport is a little too dramatized because Davenport appears as a father-like figure to Antwone. Marital problems between Davenport and his wife are unnecessarily mentioned which leads to a last confrontation between Antwone and his psychiatrist that leaves too much of a saccharine taste in your mouth. The bond between Antwone and Cheryl is extraordinary. The film depicts how much they need and grow off each other. What is really special is that, unlike most on-screen love stories, the two do not rely on a sexual relationship, but rather they depend more on each other’s character.

As Antwone Fisher, Derek Luke (there are speculations that he and the real Antwone Fisher were buddies before the film was made) is an immaculate choice. Luke has the presence of a seasoned star and makes it difficult to believe that this is a kickoff to his career. Luke puts credibility into Antwone Fisher’s biliousness and sweetness. The supporting characters have just a powerful presence as its highlighted star. Joy Bryant, whose only other credit is a short stint in Showtime, is wonderful as Cheryl. Viola Davis, who has been busy this year appearing as a space captain in Solaris and a housemaid in Far From Heaven, is riveting as Antwone’s real mother. Her almost speechless acting when Antwone is ventilating is as potent as the delivered message.

Denzel Washington wisely did not get technical in his directorial debut. He uses simple shot of flashbacks to detail Antwone’s stories. He also distinguishably uses his panache and molds it into his young cast. He does not offer anything that we have not seen before, but the acting is so almighty, we tend to forgive the burnt-out story, even if it is based on a true one. Antwone Fisher may be a conventional story, but the emotional impingement it carries distinguishes it from the other ceremoniously dulled films.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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