Movies like “Antwone Fisher” serve a noble purpose in that they tell true stories of strong-willed people who have overcome obstacles. They are inspiring, and they tend to make you cry at the end.
The downside is that they tend to seem the same after a while, especially since they always come out at this time of year. “Antwone Fisher” is as slickly produced and sentimental as its most recent predecessors, “A Beautiful Mind” and “Finding Forrester,” with a lot of glossy emotion surrounding a few minutes of gritty realism, all underscored by a stirring soundtrack that goes heavy on the horns. I don’t mean to say it’s not good; just that it’s nothing you haven’t seen before.
Antwone Fisher is a real person, and he wrote the screenplay about his own life. He is played in the film by newcomer Derek Luke, whose strident, shining performance is the movie’s most admirable quality. It is hard not to like Antwone Fisher the character, even if “Antwone Fisher” the movie is not especially noteworthy.
In the film, Antwone is a Navy man, sent to a military psychiatrist after a series of violent outbursts and antisocial behavior. The psychiatrist, Dr. Davenport, is played by Denzel Washington, who also directed the film. I cannot imagine the personable Denzel failing to get ANYONE to open up to him, and sure enough, though it takes a few weeks of silence, Antwone finally begins to tell the story of his difficult childhood.
His father was killed a few months before Antwone was born, and he never knew his mother. He spent most of his youth in the home of a fire-and-brimstone preacher and his abusive wife (Novella Nelson), who took in foster children but failed to love them. The Navy was an escape, but now he is plagued by personal demons that have affected his ability to relate to women.
Washington’s directorial debut is solid. He does not attempt anything flashy or unusual, choosing instead to tell his straightforward story in a straightforward manner. His actors are good, the pace is steady. It’s a promising debut.
Most of the film deals with Antwone’s efforts, with Davenport’s help, to heal himself and face the world. The third act sends him in search of his mother, whom he has never had any contact with. You may rest assured that Antwone triumphs over adversity, and that you will need a Kleenex handy when he does.
B- (1 hr., 59 min.; )