Love put to the test in the question of ‘Black or White’
After losing his daughter after she died in childbirth, Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) and his wife Carol (Jennifer Ehle) raise her daughter Eloise (Jillian Estell) after the child’s father, Reggie (Andre Holland), disappears.
When Carol dies in a car crash, Elliot is left to raise Eloise alone. Reggie’s mother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), believes that Eloise should be raised with her and her family, as they’re all black and can provide the life that they think Eloise deserves. When a legal battle begins, love becomes an issue more important than just race.
“Black or White” puts race on the back-burner, as it’s a film about love and the importance of family that stretches beyond having two biological parents. With many lighthearted moments and cute jokes along the way, the film doesn’t feel as gritty as it should, but it also makes some large claims about race and the perceptions of others in our lives. The film emphasizes the fact that love knows no race, and it does a great job with the help of its lead stars.
Kevin Costner is now old enough to play a grandfather, and he plays the part convincingly. Whether its his slowed walk and reactions or his emotional discomfort in certain situations, Costner is more than believable as a man out-of-touch. His character is full of love and affection that is there for everyone, but they first have to get to it. Costner really shines with his performance as a man struggling with alcoholism and his temper in order to better the case he has.
Octavia Spencer is frustratingly good in a role that will push your buttons and also cause you to have a lot of fun with the film. Her caretaker attitude can rub some people the wrong way and her outspoken nature doesn’t help. She believes that Eloise belongs with more people who are also black and tries to pull the race card on Elliot, but really just has the best interest in mind for everyone. Her clashes with Elliot are one thing, but her clashes with her family are even more interesting and reveal her family dynamic.
While things start out in a black-versus-white fashion, things are undercut by the themes of love and family. The film boils down to examining the characters and scenarios based on their actions and how they are as people, rather than defining them because of the color of their skin. In a theater full of all races, everyone shared similar sentiments and enjoyed the film for its honest approach to something that should be a non-issue.
The film becomes a bit cheesy with its choice of music and the reiteration of its many messages. The film’s score is something out of a ’90s sitcom when things were getting really serious and the characters learned a lesson: slow piano and gloomy faces. Then, the film would shift gears and we’d get an upbeat gospel song to take us in to the joyous moments. It’s unequal and quite distracting, much like the setup for possible racism in this film and then dispelling it with speeches.
‘Black or White’ is a cute film that has some larger messages, and it handles most of them pretty well. Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer play off one another with sass and grace, while Anthony Mackie, Mpho Koaho and Andre Holland shine in their respective roles. One may not agree with everything said and how it plays out, but it’s hard to deny that this film’s approach to love is something worth seeing.