In theatres this Friday from director/writer Mike Binder and Relativity Media comes another film about who is right BLACK OR WHITE.
This film tells the story of Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner), a white lawyer who loses his wife in a car accident and tries to find a way to tell granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell). Eloise has lived with Anderson since his own daughter died in childbirth.
Dealing with his grief, Anderson hits to drinking as he tries to become a full time Dad. Learning what Eloise needs and her daily routine, he makes his share of mistakes. Coming into their lives hard is Grandma Rowena who is African American and thinks that Eloise would be better off with her family.
When Anderson doesn’t bend to her will, Rowena hires nephew Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie) to pull out all the stops to get Eloise, including the issue of race. Reggie (Andre Holland), Eloise’s’ father reappears and once again wreaks havoc both physically and emotionally for Anderson.
It takes them all stepping into a courtroom to hear the truth about themselves and each other and all for one little girl.
Final Word: Kevin Costner as Elliot Anderson puts in a strong performance as a man pushed to his limits. Although he does a horrible imitation of a drunk, I got much from his character. Filled with old anger and grief mixed with new anger and grief leads to an inevitable emotional explosion. The highlight of the film is the angry rant Costner has on the stand. Cross examined by Mackie’s character, he says exactly what he means and means what he says and it is all filled with believability.
Octavia Spencer as Rowena is a mother who seems to control everyone around her. Controlling and blinded by the crap her own son does I don’t find much believability here. Letting Mackie’s portrayal of Costner as a person ‘who doesn’t like black people’ to get what she wants puts me in the frame of mind that I’m over her early on. I basically checked out on Rowena early into the film. It seemed that everything came about because she didn’t get what she wanted when she wanted so her attack was throwing the race card.
Anthony Mackie as Jeremiah, the angry black lawyer doing what’s right doesn’t hold any weight for me. He doesn’t want to do what’s right at all to my way of thinking. He’s using the ‘angry white man’ defense and letting his Aunt bulldoze him, along with Eloise’s’ father lying, and that’s all okay with him, again, to get what he wants.
Andre Holland as Reggie is the young girl’s father is painted stereotypically so much so that I was shaking my head every time he was on screen. Another character that I lost interest in pretty quickly.
Let’s be serious – even the child Eloise (Jillian Estell) didn’t want to live anywhere else and Rowena wasn’t listening to her own granddaughter! Why? Because grandma wanted what grandma wanted! Estell’s character actually doesn’t seem too stressed at all about what the adults were doing.
Mpho Koaho as Duvan is actually a character who seems like a person on the outside looking in. Although he is teaching Eloise and Anderson, he provides some of the films comic relief (which actually seems odd in places).
I have to give props to Paula Newsome as Judge Margaret Cummings because she wasn’t about to be played by either side. From the moment she sat down at the bench it was clear that justice is what would be done – not race. I don’t think any other person could have put up with the bull that Rowena was shoveling out. Just loved her performance!
Other cast include: Gillian Jacobs as Fay, Joe Chrest as Dave, David Jensen as Eldridge.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give Black or White three tubs of popcorn out of five. The only reason I can barely give it that is because of Costner’s performance (minus being drunk) and moments of Paula Newsome. I found the storyline stereotypical by pitting a junkie who was African American against a grumpy white man who drinks both vying for the affections of a girl who was fine where she was.
The endings attempt to make everything hunky-dory is nauseating. This feels like a LOSING ISAIAH (1995) remake in many ways by pitting who is the better person to raise a child because of the color of skin.
Binder is also responsible for REIGN OVER ME and THE UP SIDE OF ANGER, which also starred Costner and both of these films I really enjoyed very much. I wanted to enjoy BLACK OR WHITE but felt like the film tried to guilt me into liking it and I don’t roll like that. Was I suppose to side with Rowena because I’m not African American and it would be the PC thing to do? Or side with Costner because I’m white but be quiet about it because it would be the PC thing to do? Just ridiculous.
Changing the name from the original BLACK AND WHITE to BLACK OR WHITE irritates me even further. Why couldn’t it be Black and White? What’s wrong with “and” instead of the “or” that once again pits two races against one another.
Oh I’m sure the film will get plenty of good-feeling-gushing-talk on how the film shows two different worlds; and it could have played out that way instead of basking in stereotypes but it didn’t. There is nothing new here and no new lessons learned.
In the end – there is more to family than what you see.