Black or White
With its provocative title and star-studded cast, Mike Binder’s courtroom drama Black or White has much to live up to. The film features Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer as two grandparents fighting over the custody of their grandchild and there’s no doubt as to the poignancy of its subject matter. Yet while performances are heartfelt and strong, the film does not seem to pick up the gauntlet it has thrown down and skims over many of the relevant issues that it brings up.
After the death of his beloved wife, Elliot Anderson (Costner) is forced to raise his mixed-race grandchild, Eloise (Jillian Estell), alone. But when questions are raised about his alcohol consumption and his ability to take care of her, Eloise’s other grandmother, Rowena (Spencer), initiates a custody hearing with the intention of gaining full custody of her grandchild. Delving into issues of race, class and fatherhood, it has the opportunity to make some powerful statements on society, yet concludes having said very little.
Costner gives a very believable performance as a mourning grandfather, struggling with alcoholism and haunted by the ghosts of his daughter and wife. It is a pleasure to see him in a lead role once more, using his talent to portray such a tortured character. Also giving a terrific performance is ten-year-old Jillian Estell, who brings to life a character charming enough to make fighting over her completely understandable. Spencer also shows prowess as a woman desperately battling to bring her family together. Many of the characters are surprisingly well-developed and interesting to watch.
But for all the heart-wrenching performances and well-rounded characters, the film lacks the bite it deserves to have. The audience is not forced to question itself or society’s morals, but only made to accept the rigid reality of the situation. Possibly worth watching purely for Costner’s character and the interactions between Elliot and Rowena, the film feels safe, verging on traditional.
Black or White is released on Digital HD on 14th December 2015
Watch the trailer for Black or White here: