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Antwone Fisher

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Antwone Fisher

Starring: Denzel Washington, Derek Luke
Director: Denzel Washington
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: January 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: De'Angelo Wilson, Yolonda Ross, Stephen Snedden, Viola Davis

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Oscar-winner Denzel Washington makes his directorial debut with this tepid but true story of Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke), a Navy seaman with deep psychological problems and a propensity for fighting. In addition, Washington plays the empathetic Navy psychiatrist, Dr. Jerome Davenport who - through healing Fisher - helps himself. Through flashbacks, we discover that Antwone Fisher had a very chaotic and dysfunctional childhood. His father was killed and his mother, a convict, abandoned him. He then suffered physical and emotional abuse from a cruel, sadistic foster mother (Novella Nelson), along with sexual molestation from an older foster sister. Once the alienated Fisher finally opens up to his savvy doctor and cooperates, however, all his problems seem to vanish with a few therapy sessions. Plus, he meets a remarkably understanding co-worker (Joy Bryant), the daughter of a Navy man. I suspect this film's primary problem is that Antwone Fisher adapted his own autobiography, "Finding Fish"; a more adept screenwriter would not have idealized the three primary roles and made redemption so easy. The pivotal peripheral characters, like Fisher's long-lost aunt (Vernee Watson Johnson) and real mother (Viola Davis), are nondescript, too quickly introduced and dismissed. Above all, Davenport's relationship with his troubled wife (Salli Richardson), which is supposed to act as an emotional parallel, is too manipulative and shallow to work at all. Not only is this Denzel Washington's first directing job, but it's also Derek Luke's first big-screen job and model Joy Bryant's first major acting role - which, I suppose, is why it's not a conventional TV movie-of-the-week. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Antwone Fisher" is a bland, feel-good 6. It's inspiring but insipid.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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