Antwone Fisher is the kind of movie that Charlie Kaufman hates the most ' a connect-the-ducts tearjerker that wallows in Hollywood clichÃs. But damn if the thing doesn't work. At the screening I attended, people weren't just sniffling, they were wailing. (I, too, was verklempt.) Starring newcomer Derek Luke, it's the true-life story of a guy who, as a child, suffered every form of abuse: verbal, physical, sexual. Born to an unwed mother in prison, Fisher has spent time in a foster home, an orphanage and the U.S. Navy, and when we meet him he's one angry young sailor. But Navy-mandated therapy sessions with the base psychiatrist (Denzel Washington, who also directed) turn both their lives around. Oh, and did I mention that the movie was written by Antwone Fisher himself, who was a security guard at Sony Pictures when the Wheel of Fortune finally landed on his name?
It's all very inspirational and very Psych 101. And although Washington is still figuring out how to tell a story, he sure knows how to work with actors. His own performance radiates that quiet authority we've come to expect from him. But it's Luke, playing a guy who's only begun to explore the secrets chambers of his broken heart, who carries the movie over the finish line. There should be awards for such explosive self-containment, such powerful underacting.