Antwone Fisher


Directed by: Denzel Washington
Written by:Antwone Fisher
Starring: Derek Luke, Denzel Washington, Joy Bryant, Salli Richardson, Leonard Earl Howze
Released: March 13, 2003
Grade: B-

We meet Antwone Fisher (Luke) as a 25-year-old working in the navy.  Provoked, he lashes out at a fellow crew member and (after a rather silly hearing) winds up in the hands of psychiatrist Jerome Davenport (Washington).  As you’d expect, Antwone isn’t initially forthcoming in sharing his deep thoughts with a total stranger but Jerome uses his experience to get Antwone to open up and reveal the reasons for his anger.

You see, Antwone is angry because he had a rough childhood.  His father was murdered before he was born and his mother was in prison with no need for him.  We spent his first few years in an orphanage before being taken in by a foster family who treated him like dirt.  He was constantly looked down upon, treated like dirt, and yep, even sexually abused.  It’s time to start feeling sorry for Antwone. Boo hoo.

The film takes a slightly different path at this point.  Instead of focusing on Antwone getting his navy career back on the rails, Jerome suggests he go in search of his mother who abandoned him long ago to find closure on the matter.  Travelling with his new girlfriend, Antwone has success and all ends happily ever after.  Before I forget, I need to mention that Jerome and his own wife are currently having troubles of their own and his friendship with Antwone helps him fix all that ails him.

This is sugary tale is too sweet for its own good.  You can’t help but feel manipulated.  I wasn’t even slightly touched emotionally by this true story.  Perhaps if told with more realism I could speak more highly but Antwone Fisher’s own screenplay has the Hollywood touch and has borrowed from many other films.  In fact, after 20 minutes into the film, I thought I was watching an African American version of Good Will Hunting.

Denzel Washington’s directorial debut is a little rough around the edges.  He treads familiar territory and some lukewarm editing makes the storytelling look a little sloppy - there are too many gaps in this story.  Parts of the film which seemed of most interest were unexplored and kept short.  I was also unimpressed by the ease at which Jerome coaxes the bad memories from Antwone’s heavily guarded mind.

Antwone Fisher needed more work.  I mean no disrespect to the man himself as I’m sure his triumphant story is something to behold.  But after seeing this interpretation on screen, I’m not interested.