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. 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.

The happy ending was obvious from the beginning, even if the steps involved in getting there weren’t.

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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