Studio: Relativity Media (2 hr. 1 min.)
Plot: A grieving widower is drawn into a custody battle over his granddaughter, whom he helped raise her entire life.
Cast: Kevin Costner, Jillian Estell, Octavia Spencer, Anthony Mackie, Andre Holland, Mpho Koaho
Bottom Line: ***
By Laurence Washington
Many critics aren’t fans of “Black or White,” feeling the filmmakers played it safe in today’s racially charged climate by not taking a harder stand on prejudice in modern America.
The film does have its moments, however. But admittedly, for the most part the film does soft-peddle it’s way through highly charged subject matter – a white grandfather, Elliot Anderson (Kevin Costner) raising his interracial grandchild Eloise (Jillian Estell) after his wife suddenly dies.
As if things were not complicated enough, Elliot is still grieving over the death of his daughter who died while giving birth to Eloise. Enter Eloise’s African-American grandmother, Rowena Jeffers (Octavia Spencer) who launches a legal battle for sole control Eloise’s future.
As the film progresses Eloise becomes entangled in a tug of war between grandparents, and lawyers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty digging up muck on the battling parties.
Both grandparents have equal rights, but both have major flaws that can keep them from sole custody of Eloise. Elliot is a hot-headed heavy drinker, and Jeffers son, Eloise’s father (Andre Holland), is a crack addict who just wants money and not his daughter.
“Black or White” isn’t a Spike Lee risk taking film that might offend sensitive viewers, because it deliver blows equally on both sides of the race equation. Kevin Costner, Jillian Estell and Octavia Spencer give convincing performances making many of the film’s sins forgivable punctuating the fact that the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water.
This column was printed in the February 22, 2015 - March 7, 2015 edition.