Review: Black or White

Black or White stars Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer as two contending grandparents fighting over custody of young Eloise (Jillian Estell).

Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer

Spoilers ahead.

Elliot Anderson (Costner) and his wife have always had custody of Eloise. Eloise’s mother, Elliot’s daughter, died in childbirth. Her father, Reggie, is a drug-addicted ne’re-do-well who has never been around for Eloise. Reggie is Rowena’s (Spencer) son. André Holland plays Reggie as a guy who just doesn’t have what it takes.

I like that the film tries to tackle race issues. It doesn’t do a great job at it, but at least the topic comes under discussion. I didn’t like that the outcome was so predictable. It was obvious to everyone but the characters in the film what Eloise needed.

I like that the film tries to tackle race issues. It doesn’t do a great job at it, but at least the topic comes under discussion.Elliot’s wife dies as the beginning of the film. He is terrible at taking over the duties his wife formerly performed with Eloise – mostly because he stays drunk following his wife’s death, but also because he never had to do it before. As he struggles drunkenly to figure it out, Rowena comes calling to say that she thinks Eloise belongs with her. Rowena has a house full of extended family, with more living just across the street. She thinks Eloise should be with people who look more like family than Elliot does. Elliot doesn’t mind Eloise being with Rowena and her family for visits, but he wants to retain custody.

Elliot is a lawyer himself, so when Rowena goes to court over custody, his firm handles the case. His buddy Rick (Bill Burr) represents him. Rowena hires her younger brother Jeremiah (Anthony Mackie) to represent her. When the case is assigned to a woman of color (Paula Newsome), Rowena thinks she has it made.

One of the complications that ensue include Elliot learning that Eloise has always dreamed about knowing her father. Elliot tries to arrange for Reggie to visit, but he doesn’t show. She does meet him later. In spite of wanting to know her father, Eloise wants to stay with her Papa where she has always lived. She loves Rowena’s side of the family and likes to visit, but wants to stay where she is.

The other complication is that Rowena decides to make the custody case about Eloise being with her father. It’s clear to everyone but Rowena that Reggie is not prepared to be a father.

There’s a middle of the night struggle beside Elliot’s pool between a high Reggie and a drunk Elliot. Elliot falls in the pool and almost drowns. Reggie rescues him. That incident clears the air between them somewhat.

Reggie tells the judge he isn’t ready to be a father. Elliot is finally sobering up. Eloise stays with Elliot. Rowena is still able to be with Eloise any time. Black and White. It’s the happy ending that was obvious from the beginning.

Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer are wonderful in this. So is André Holland.

The Trailer

Black or White is available now on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

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