|Rating:PG-13 for strong language and adult situations.
Starring: Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Denzel Washington.
Directed By:Denzel Washington.
This is going to be a short review, because at the time of this writing, it is 6:30 in the morning and I am very sleepy.
Derek Luke stars as the title character and real life person whose life was the inspiration for the screenplay (written by Antwone himself). Antwone is a Navy officer who has a habit of beating the crap out of anyone who so much as looks at him the wrong way and is assigned to a Naval Psychologist played by Denzel Washington. He is given three sessions to determine whether he should be discharged or not, and at first, he is silent and reluctant. As time passes, though, Antwone finds himself opening up his heart and his life story to the doctor, who in a way becomes the father figure he never had. His father was killed by one of his ex-girlfriends before Antwone was born, so it was obviously hard for Antwone to get close to him. Meanwhile, Antwone starts to date Cheryl, a fellow Navy officer and quite the looker, and along with the good doctor, begins to forge the first honest, meaningful relationships he’s had in life. Along the way, past secrets begin to reveal themselves, as Antwone Fisher must confront the demons that have plagued his existence thus far.
Without giving anything away, the real life material feels like something that Tennessee Williams could have written, but under the direction of Denzel Washington, is fairly sentimental if not bittersweet. There is a seething anger under key sequences of the film but that is not the point of the film but rather the subtext. Instead, Washington focuses on Antwone’s journey to connect with someone—the doctor, his girlfriend, his family—as a way of making up for lost opportunities at life. He works hard and tries to make something out of himself in the Navy, learns a second language (while working on a third) and despite the past hostility in his life, tries to become the best person he can. One of the film’s best moments is when he is conveying this and every worthwhile thing he’s accomplished to one of the film’s characters, where Antwone levels with himself and realizes he’s a good person too. The film is realistic but sweet…underlining the hostile moments of his life but highlighting the nicer moments with a bright highlighter.
My favorite aspect of the film was the relationship between Antwone and Cheryl. The obligatory love scene actually has dramatic weight in this film, concerning Antwone’s problems with intimacy that I will not reveal at the moment. They have a great chemistry, hit all the right notes during their awkward but charming and productive date, and become a worthwhile part of the other’s lives. I wish I could explain more so it actually looked like I knew what I was talking about, but as I mentioned earlier, I am sleepy.
Yet despite it all, the closing scenes of the film feel somewhat mute to me. I was absorbed in the film until that point, but things tie themselves up too neatly at the end that I couldn’t help but think that the real Antwone and Denzel made things extra sugary so the audience wouldn’t walk away with any negative thoughts whatsoever. I don’t mind that necessarily, but get annoyed when it’s obvious. Oh well, it’s a good movie, so I’m not going to hold that against it. It’s not quite the masterpiece some critics are hailing it as, but it’s a good one.