Monday, February 2, 2015

Movie Review #213: "Black or White" (2014)

Movie"Black or White"
Ticket Price: $7.00
Director: Mike Binder
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Image Source
When his wife suddenly dies in a car accident, Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) is left alone to raise his granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell), whose mom, Elliot's daughter, died during childbirth. Eloise's other grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), who is black, wants custody of Eloise so she can be closer and more connected to her roots and the other side of her family. Eventually, Eloise's ex-junkie father Reggie (André Holland), shows up and says that he is clean and ready to take care of his daughter again. Elliot must battle them in court so he can keep his granddaughter, who has been raised by him for her whole life.

"Black or White" is another January movie that received little to no promotion, at least in our area. We have been on a bad tear as far as crappy movies go, so with no expectations, we reluctantly went into this movie. To our surprise, it wasn't half bad, at least not as bad as other critics are saying since they have been raking it over the coals. Kevin Costner has made a couple of bad career decisions in the past, but this movie wasn't his worst by a long shot. He was good in this film as Elliot, a man who has suffered great loss and though he really loves his granddaughter, he is using large amounts of alcohol to numb his emotional pains at the expense of Eloise. Octavia Spencer is also extremely good in this film as Rowena, or Grandma We-We, and loves Eloise just as much as Elliot does and wants the best for her, thorough bringing a lawsuit against him could inadvertently hurt Eloise. The bottom line is that they are both concerned grandparents who know she has been through the ringer at such a young age and are doing what they think is best for her. We-We and Elliot manage to stay relatively civil through a hotly contested custody battle, though there is a bit of angry snark from both sides during the hearing. Jillian Estell, who plays Eloise, is a really cute kid, but she is no Quvenzhan√© Wallis and definitely needs a couple more acting lessons before she gets another film role. It's nice to see Anthony Mackie getting roles since his Marvel fame, but he was sort of a dick in this movie. Mpho Koaho, who plays tutor Duvan, provides a lot of much needed comic relief for the film, even in court scenes.

As we mentioned, critics seems to dislike this movie for a lot of reasons, in particular, that it attempts to open a dialogue about "the black and white" discussion, yet answers no questions about it and fills its plot with simplistic fodder and tug at your heartstrings moments. This should be true from a viewer's standpoint whether you critique movies or not as the plot deals with an emotionally charged subject. We're not here to debate the politics of the movie or politics in general, but we will try and tread as lightly as possible in our review as to not accidentally offend anyone. To us, you could say that this movie is a step in the right direction, but we can also see how it further perpetuates stereotypes about both the black and white communities. It also doesn't show anyone in a particularly good or bad light, either, since each person in this movie has both good and bad qualities. There is a scene towards the end of the movie that could go one way or the other as far as offense goes, but it could be considered a pivotal one in opening up this dialogue...well, sort of. This scene and really the dialogue throughout the movie often comes off as a bit brash and little preachy and uneven at times, but as a story, it wasn't a bad one. The issues that this movie deals with are not, pardon our pun, black or white, but a whole world of gray.

At the end of it all, this movie, by design, seems as if it were made to start a conversation, but in doing so, it opens up a double-edged sword about issues that we as a nation sweep under the rug on both sides, not just one or the other. "Black or White" won't win any awards and it certainly won't help on a large scale, which it might have attempted to do, but that doesn't mean that it is a bad movie.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 35%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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