Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Yes and a Warning

Black or White hit movie theaters this weekend. I wasn't so sure about this one - Kevin Costner's track record has been a bit spotty as of late, but Octavia Spencer tends toward the fabulous, so in I went. The film is not without a few problems - Jeremiah's (played the always reliable Anthony Mackie) speech to Reggie about his being a stereotype came across as a little pat to me - but the film is willing to tackle some tough issues without being After School Special-simple. Truly, the issues presented here are not black or white. A quick summary - Elliot (Kevin Costner) and his wife have been raising their bi-racial granddaughter since birth - their daughter died in childbirth and the father is addicted and shiftless. However, he comes from a good family who values hard work and when Elliot's wife dies in a car accident, Rowena (the paternal grandmother, played by Octavia Spencer) decides that Elliot can't raise the child alone and sues for full (not shared) custody.

I saw this in a crammed theater and the audience loved the twists. Elliot has money and can provide a host of creature comforts that Rowena can't, but she has a house full of children closer to Eloise's age and family matters. Both of them genuinely love little Eloise and want what's best for her - they just disagree on what that is. Reggie (Eloise's father) is a screw-up of the first order, the black sheep in this motivated, close-knit family, although you sense that he really does want to be a loving, responsible father, but he has absolutely no clue how to do that. And Elliot and Reggie have a couple of things in common that won't look good in open court.

I'm going to single out Paula Newsome, who plays the judge presiding over the custody case. She's to-the-point, but also compassionate and droll, so her character got several of the bigger laughs in this film, which always tinges the serious issues it's taking on with humor. And keep your eye on Mpho Koaho, who plays Eloise's tutor. He's going places. Not necessarily a big screen must-see, but Black or White is a solid effort and a gem to find in the doldrums of late winter, when studios often dump their stray dogs on screens across the land.

Speaking of stray dogs, I also saw The Loft this weekend. No, I'm not including a link. Or a picture. Or much of anything at all. (We were the only two people in the theater, which should have told me something.) The actors deserve better and goodness knows the movie-going public deserves better for their hard-earned cash than this contemptible mess of "Bros Before Hos" that is being foisted on you. It's not enough to not go to see this film, as a humanitarian gesture, you need to pull people who are thinking about going to see it out of the ticket line. They'll thank you later for saving them seven bucks and 108 minutes of their life. Seriously, in the first five minutes, I was stunned at one of the film's basic premises, which seemed to be "All of us are successful, well-off men, yet none of us have ever, in 20 years, watched enough Law & Order to know to ask for a lawyer when a dead blonde winds up in our shared love-nest." And it goes downhill from there. And when it reaches rock-bottom, it starts digging. Please stay away.

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