SYNOPSIS: BLACK OR WHITE is the story of a grandfather (Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner) who is suddenly left to care for his beloved granddaughter. When her paternal grandmother (Academy Award® winner Octavia Spencer) seeks custody with the help of her brother (Anthony Mackie), the little girl is torn between two families who love her deeply. With the best intentions at heart, both families fight for what they feel is right and are soon forced to confront their true feelings about race, forgiveness, and understanding. Anchored by an all-star cast and based on real events, the movie is a look at two seemingly different worlds, in which nothing is as simple as black or white.
Let’s start with this: “Black or White” is about a custody battle over a mixed-race little girl between her white grandfather and black grandmother, and that’s about as subtle as this movie gets. It is a brilliant and powerful film, and it breaches the (hot potato) topic of racial tension in America in an unusual, but finely balanced way. It skillfully examines the racial prejudices in our society, while it is equally critical of the way people use knee-jerk accusations of racism to manipulate others and gain power over them. Between these two extremes the film searches restlessly for reconciliation in the character’s relationships.
What’s more amazing is that the film’s plot was inspired by a true story and based on real events. It is anchored by an all-star cast and shines a spotlight on two seemingly different worlds, in which nothing is as simple as “Black or White”. Besides that, it’s working within the seemingly forbidden topic’s limits, while writer-director Mike Binder (Fanboy, 2011) does some fascinating things and casts the movie extremely well. Starting with the child, Eloise, he finds a little movie star in newcomer Jillian Estell, who steals each and every scene with her cuteness and warmth and is already a strong actress in her own right. She is precocious without being bratty and has magnificent grand-daughter/father chemistry with Costner’s character that is both very convincing and delightful.
“Black or White” is such a mix of smarts and delicate choices in presenting the subject matter that one can fall in love with the flick or simply relate to it depending on what you choose to embrace about the movie. Like icing on a cake, it has songs on the soundtrack that are blatant in their appropriateness. For example, at one point, Costner is driving down the road, in a contemplative mood, and the soundtrack is jamming Billy Joel’s “Don’t Ask Me Why.” And in another scene, writer-director Binder chooses a moment of introspection to resurrect a 1975 Dorothy Moore hit “Misty Blue.” (I certainly had to look that one up).
This is an exquisitely done flick, which I might submit as being one of the finest performances Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer (Get On Up, 2014) has given. The film is both moving and entertaining, yet with its deep emotional storytelling it gives one cause to think about what truly makes a family. It’s a family of blood connection, of race and of love that makes the difference in telling this story. It is also a film of redemption and forgiveness in a world where it is easy to hate and blame. ““Black or White” ” shows where there is love and understanding there is hope had healing. I certainly was thoroughly entertained by this flick and would recommend one and all to see it. Five out of five stars is more than deserved here and I would go as far as to predict this as being an award-winning film, in time to come.
By Movi-Man Stan
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