Black or White Blu-ray Review
BLACK OR WHITE is a difficult movie to pin down. It has a lot to say, but it doesn’t know how to say it. Or it has a lot to say and says too much of it too quickly. It does seem like every other month the American public is subjugated to some pop-culture reminder that there’s still racial tensions and race problems in this country. Some movies, like SELMA, can handle it with a mature grace and movies like BLACK OR WHITE, don’t seem to add an intellectual voice to the conversation.
That’s not to say that BLACK OR WHITE is a dumb movie. A dumb movie would have me rolling me eyes, but BLACK OR WHITE kept me very much engaged. That’s because the story centers on Eliose (Estell), she’s the mixed-race granddaughter of Elliot (Costner) and Rowena (Spencer). Her mother, Elliot’s daughter, died giving birth to her, and the father, the bumbling drug addicted son of Rowena, is nowhere to be seen.
It’s easy to crucify the father, Duvan (Mpho Koaho), because that’s the only person we do meet, and to be fair, he is a loser. Elliot’s daughter is only seen in Elliot’s dreams or as drunken hallucinations. The main squabble comes after the death of Elliot’s wife. She and Rowena were very close. So close in fact, that now that she’s passed, Rowena wants custody because she doesn’t believe Elliot is a suitable guardian because of Elliot’s perpetual drinking. Although something tells me Elliot’s wife didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about him behind closed doors.
It’s a movie that raises a few more questions about the life of our dysfunctional bunch than it answers. It tries to paint the family drama in black and white. There is no gray area or ambiguity that leaves creates an uneasy air of suspense. As soon as we could start believing that Duvan is a man who’s turned his life around, we have a scene showing him smoking crack. We know early on that Elliot may not be the most racially sensitive person since he drops the ‘N’ word so early in the movie. It’s a movie that shows its hand to us before attempting to surprise us.
After all the cluttered family battling, the movie then tries to shoehorn some racial issues into the movie when it comes time for testimony over custody of Eliose. But by the time those are cramped in, they don’t seem very strong, nor do they come off as legitimate. If this movie was to simply drop the racial issues, it would have played much better as a straight dramedy.
There’s a lot to like in this movie though. The performances are good and the story is still entertaining with its weak content. I credit the performances of Costner and Spencer, and their on-screen chemistry together. It knows how to build up some tension, no matter how contrived it may be, and it knows how to pay off its clichés, but definitely need some work on making them original. BLACK OR WHITE isn’t about to start another revolution or inspire someone to join a million man march, but it’s a decent watch if you have down time.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) The clear presentation on this blu-ray highlights the contrasts of suburbia and the downtrodden inner city.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The soundtrack on this comes through clearly and never becomes overbearing on the dialogue. The audio in this movie is mixed well.
Shades of Gray: The Making of BLACK OR WHITE (23:54): A splicing of film snippets, cast interviews, and a couple of behind the scenes moments make up this feature. Despite some of the serious subject matter, it seems like the cast and crew had a lot of fun making this.
Promotional Featurettes: This has too promotional features that were most likely used to help sell tickets or draw interest to the movie. One is called the Kevin Costner Featurette, which focuses on the actor, and a Family First Featurette, which alleges to focus on the Jeffers family, but instead focuses heavily on Octavia Spencer’s performance. Both clock in a little over two minutes.