Friday, March 20, 2009

Antowne Fisher was on this morning

IFC aired Antwone Fisher this morning. I had intended to blog about it yesterday, but didn't get around to it. Better late than never, I suppose. Anyhow, like most recent movies, it's available on DVD, so you don't have to wait for it to show up on TV.

Previously unknown Derek Luke stars in the title role of Antwone Fisher, a young man in the US Navy who's got a bit of an anger management problem. Actually, it's more than a bit of a problem. At the start of the movie, we see Fisher trying to strangle a shipmate who's mildly teasing him -- and learn this isn't the first time Fisher has lashed out. So, he's sent to Navy psychiatrist Denzel Washington. At first, Fisher wants no part of the shrink, just sitting there and letting the hour pass by, complete with the standard shots of clocks showing the passage of time. Eventually, though, Fisher has some sort of change of heart, and starts opening up. Fisher had a difficult and chaotic childhood, to put it mildly. He was born in prison, and his biological father was killed by a different girlfriend before Antwone was born. Indeed, Antwone only knows his biological father's first name. After his mother got out of prison, she couldn't be bothered to take custody of him, leaving Antwone to be "raised" by Jesus freaks and other people.

Still, our psychiatrist thinks it would be a good idea if Antwone went on leave and went back to his hometown of Cleveland to find out more about his biological family. Antwone is lucky that by now, he's got a girlfriend. It's not an easy relationship, since Antwone is as frigid as Marnie, but his girlfriend is a saint, sensing that something is wrong with Antwone, not being too prying about it, and then following him to Cleveland and calling hundreds of names in the phone book when Antwone learns the surname of his biological father.

The girlfriend, however, is symptomatic of the problems the movie has. It just feels too pat. The acting is competent, with the exception of Luke who does quite a bit better than everybody else. Denzel Washington was making his directorial debut, and also does a competent job. But the nature of story really calls for something more than that. It's not that the movie is bad -- indeed, watching it is a rewarding experience -- but one walks away from the movie thinking it could have been so much more.

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