Whoopi Goldberg in Good Fences (2003)

Keeping Up With the 70s Jones's

After graduating from law school Tom Spader (Danny Glover - Lethal Weapon 4) always felt the drive to be like his white attorney counter parts and living the American dream. And his hard work starts to pay off when he wins an important case and gets huge media coverage. It provides him the opportunity to move his family out of the mixed lower-middle-class New Haven Suburb into the more affluent area of Greenwich where his family are the only African American family. Tom is not done yet and he expects his wife Mabel (Whoopi Goldberg - It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie) and his children to blend in with the community. But things start to change when Ruth Crisp (Mo'Nique) arrives in the area having won the lottery as her family are the sort of African-Americans who Tom has tried to distance himself from in aiming to live the American Dream and fears their arrival will have a negative affect on his neighbour's opinions. It leads to Tom taking some desperate steps but also giving Mabel a wake up call as she realises she has lost sight of who she is.

"Good Fences" is the sort of movie which at times is good at others is weird, sometimes it is funny, sometimes it is not, every now and then it is dramatic but not consistently. What I am saying is that "Good Fences" ends up a mixed bag which unsurprisingly deals with prejudice during the 70s it also deals with a more universal subject of forgetting who you are and where you came from in search of what others have. And what it has to say comes across but often it gets side tracked with things which don't seem part of the bigger picture.

Danny Glover in Good Fences (2003)

So let's mention the obvious side and with the Spader family moving to an affluent all white neighbourhood during the 70s we have the racism and prejudice with an initial scene of a neighbour introducing herself to Mabel thinking that Mabel is the maid. This is followed by a scene where Tom's son at school is asked by a group of white kids if he knows various African American sportsmen and actors, a sort of amusing scene as the son plays up to it and says yes to them all. But rather cleverly we see another side of racism as we watch the Spader's trying to blend in and treating those less fortunate than themselves in a way they wouldn't a few years earlier. All of which makes it very clear of the racial messages it wants to get across but often doing it with just the right amount of humour, often humour which makes you a little uneasy such as a man moving out of Mabel's way when she goes grocery shopping.

This blend of insightful scenes with a humorous touch extends to the other side of the movie as we watch the Spader's lose track of who they are in trying to fit in. But we also see the consequences of trying to fit in with Tom telling Mabel to ignore the fact she thinks the next door neighbour is beating his wife whilst Mabel feels lost playing the part of the housewife with nothing to do.

All of which is fine but there is a very curious side to this with a strange styling from people staring straight at the camera to the whole twist of Tom not being keen on the Crisp family and doing what he can to prevent them from moving next door. Basically "Good Fences" is at times a clever movie with an insightful side and a humorous side but also a curious side with scenes which appear to fly off on tangents.

What this all boils down to is that "Good Fences" is certainly worth a watch as it does have a very good side but it is one which gets lost in amongst a lot of other things. And I haven't even mentioned that this is a movie awash in 70s fashion; polyester suits, big glasses, bigger hair and tacky jewellery which is certainly a sight.