Opening Jan. 30, the AWFJ Movie of the Week is Black or White, which reunites star Kevin Costner with writer/director Mike Binder (Man About Town, Reign Over Me) a decade after The Upside of Anger. Here, Costner takes the role of Elliot Anderson, a recently widowed lawyer who finds himself drawn into a brutal custody battle for his (mixed-race) granddaughter Eloise (newcomer Jillian Estell), who he has helped raise since her mother died during childbirth and her drug addict father proved incapable, Going up against Eloise’s iron-willed paternal grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer), Elliot must pull himself together and use his professional arsenal if he is to keep hold of the only family he has left. Read on…
As is likely clear by the title, race is a central theme here and Binder keeps control of the hot button issue with a steady hand, while being unafraid to tackle the subject head on. He’s helped by Costner, who puts in a solid performance, showcasing a determination of spirit and dark humour that makes his character all the more sympathetic. Spencer is also on excellent form, playing a force of nature who can’t help but demand attention each time she’s onscreen.
That Black or White is inspired from a chapter in Binder’s own family history is clear from its personal tone and that, along with its two great lead performances, are its greatest strengths.
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panelists Comments:
Pam Grady: A decade after their first collaboration on The Upside of Anger, filmmaker Mike Binder and star Kevin Costner reunite with Black or White, a drama as timely as today’s headlines in its limning of the state of American race relations as Costner and Octavia Spencer play grandparents arguing over custody of their mixed-raced grandchild.
Jeanne Wolf: Black or White is a wonderful and thoughtful surprise. Kevin Costner impresses with his warmth and love.
Title: Black or White
Director: Mike Binder
Release Date: Jan. 30, 2014
Running Time: 121 minutes
Shooting Location(s): New Orleans, LA
Principal Cast: Anthony Mackie, Kevin Costner, Jennifer Ehle, Andre Holland, Gillian Jacobs, Octavia Spencer, Bill Burr, Jillian Estell
Screenwriter: Mike Binder
Production Company: BlackWhite, Sunlight Productions, Treehouse Films (II), Venture Forth
Distributor: Relativity Meda
AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Nikki Baughan, Anne Brodie, Pam Grady, Leba Hertz, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Katherine McLaughlin, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Rebecca Murray, Kristy Puchko, Sheila Roberts, Sara Vizcarrando, and Jeanne Wolf.
Other Movies Opening the Week of Jan. 26-Feb. 1, 2014:
The Truth About You
Black or White
Hard to be a God
Edited by Sandra Kraisirideja, AWFJ.org Associate Editor