Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Tagline: "Inspired by a true story."
Length: 120 minutes
I missed "Antwone Fisher" in the theaters, but when I saw it at home recently on DVD, I found it very emotionally involving. I realize the film is somewhat formulaic and sometimes overly sentimentalized, but I liked it a lot anyway. It seems to me the movie has an underlying earnestness, and it managed to bring tears to my eyes.
There really is a man named Antwone Fisher, and you can see and hear him on a featurette on the DVD. Fisher is credited with writing the screenplay for the movie "Antwone Fisher" based on his life experiences. He has also written a memoir titled "Finding Fish" about those experiences.
The film "Antwone Fisher" marks the directing debut of Denzel Washington, who also appears in the movie in a supporting role. The central character, however, is played by newcomer Derek Luke, and I thought he was outstanding in the title role. The title character's love interest is played by Joy Bryant, another newcomer, and I found her to be a charming and attractive actress, but the script doesn't develop her character much.
In the film, Antwone Fisher (Luke) is a 24-year-old African-American enlisted man in the U.S. Navy. Antwone repeatedly gets in trouble for fighting and is ordered to see Dr. Jerome Davenport (Washington), a Navy psychiatrist. While Antwone has a series of meetings with Dr. Davenport, the young sailor begins a romantic relationship with a lovely young enlisted woman named Cheryl (Bryant), who works at the Base Exchange. All this takes place in the San Diego area, and as the story develops, we are treated to some nice shots along the California coast.
Through Antwone's conversations with Dr. Davenport, we find out what has made him such a troubled young man: Antwone's father died before he was born, his mother abandoned him, and he was raised in a foster home where he was abused. The needy Antwone wants Dr. Davenport and his wife to be his surrogate parents, and I thought it was interesting the way the psychiatrist handled this situation. Eventually, Antwone travels back to Cleveland, taking his girlfriend Cheryl with him, to try to find out whatever he can about his biological family, and this is the part of the movie that I thought was extremely powerful.
The approach to racial issues is rather low-key in "Antwone Fisher," but I thought the film made a few good points about race in America nonetheless. For example, when Dr. Davenport learns of Antwone's being abused as a child, the psychiatrist gives the young sailor the book "The Slave Community," which theorizes that slaves internalized the abuse they received from their masters and the behavior has been passed down through generations of their descendants. Another example is where Antwone tells Cheryl about parents' adoption preferences: "First the light-skinned girls. They got adopted the quickest. Then the light-skinned boys, and then the dark-skinned girls. And then, last but not least, the dark-skinned boys."
I'll admit that "Antwone Fisher" is way too tidy to be taken as realistic—everything is neatly explained and the rough edges of real life are softened. I expect the screenplay structure will feel painfully familiar to veteran moviegoers, but for me, the underlying power of the story and the charisma of the three main actors more than made up for the film's flaws. In the end, I found the movie to be heartwarming and inspiring.
The DVD comes with some worthwhile bonus materials, and I have listed these below.
Special Features of the DVD:
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