Friday, February 06, 2015

"Black or White": custody battle over mixed-race child seems politically correct, predictable

I wasn’t in as much of a hurry to see “Black or White” by Mike Binder, until yesterday (at Angelika Mosaic, before a fair weekday afternoon audience) as it sounded politically correct and stereotyped; and it seemed to be released well after the Academy Awards season.  There’s a different between stagy films like this and historical films (“Selma”, Dec. 25) that really get into the historical issues.
The story puts Kevin Costner as a 60-ish corporate lawyer Elliot Anderson in LA, widowed by a car crash.  But he and his wife had been raising mixed-raced granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estel), since the girl’s black father  Reggie (Andrew Holland) had disappeared into a life of crime.  As a single dad, Elliot quickly learns to be attentive.  But soon the girl’s maternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer), who owns several retail businesses in East LA is pursuing him for custody. She also runs a website that the film could have told us more about. 
Much of the plot concerns Reggie’s pretense of having reformed, but also his equivocal “blackmailing” Elliot to go away.  In the courtroom hearing, I found the race card to be played in a rather artificial way.  Then the movie has a climax, when Reggie tries to take the child by force from Elliot’s home but has a sort of epiphany, which seems artificial.
The most interesting character may be Duvan (Mpho Kaoho), the 19-year-old tutor whom Elliot hires, He has a published academic paper to show off on everything, and speaks nine languages (some of them central African and not Indo-European or easy to learn).  He’s a little bit like the college student Sal in my novel “Angel’s Brother”.
The official site is here (Relativity Media).

Picture: Distant view of Mono Lake, my trip, 2012. 

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