Mon December 16, 2002
"Antwone Fisher" is not a slice of black life -it is a sentimental journey, ...
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
If I see a film directed by a renowned black actor and autobiographically written by a gifted black man, then I hope for a film rich in black culture. "Antwone Fisher" is not a slice of black life - it is a sentimental journey, directed by a sentimentalist and written by a man for whom everything turned out just right, every tear jerked out with impeccable timing.
The eponymous hero, played with promise by young Derek Luke, is a sailor with aggression problems, sent to the base shrink, Denzel Washington, for three sessions. Dr. Washington quickly determines the problem is from abandonment at early age, and away we go. Not satisfied that this plot is already in deadly clich? territory when Denzel starts treating Fisher like a son, writer Fisher continues with the obligatory family reunion and Mychael Danna accompanies with swelling music.
The deliverance of a young man from the jaws of child abuse and abandonment is serious business, but something new must be on board to make an artistic and social impact. Although Denzel directs with authority and restraint, the story is still not fresh. Add to that deficiency secondary plots like the psychiatrist's troubled marriage, which is explained late and goes nowhere, and your film could end up a sappy success on The Lifetime Channel.
It all adds up to a minor tear-jerking experience with some reality like how to survive first dates and how to seek out your roots. Once you do, all your problems will be solved, and your family will sit around the Thanksgiving table happy to be united once more. The flaw in this design is that someone might believe it's that easy. Denzel should pick material not written by the hero, he shouldn't cast himself in a thankless role, and he should remember playing a bad guy as he did in "Training Days" has its acting rewards. Or why not just concentrate on honest treatment of black issues?
John DeSando vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.