Kevin Costner gives one of his best performances in years in 2015's drama, BLACK OR WHITE. Costner stars as Elliot Anderson, a widower and proud grandfather to his bi-racial granddaughter Eloise.
When he suddenly faces raising Eloise on his own, he is drawn into a custody battle by Eloise's grandmother Rowena, powerfully played by Octavia Spencer (The Help).
The film dances a fine line between reinforcing the stereotypes it means to dispel, but slowly unfurls Elliot and Rowena's emotions as they are forced to challenge their perceptions of each other and their own families.
When the custody battle ends up in the courtroom, the tonal shift from family drama to John Grisham style courtroom drama is a bit jarring.
The screenplay makes its biggest misstep in forcing Elliot (and Costner) to shout a racial epitaph at Eloise's less than ideal father in the middle of a street. It feels forced. It doesn't feel like the character of Elliot that we've come to know would say it, but its there just to foreshadow a court confrontation later.
Writer/Director Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger, Ray Donovan) otherwise crafts characters and families you'll care about and pull for as they face their own prejudices that emerge in their love for Eloise.
Luckily for the movie, Eloise is played by child actor Jillian Estell and she's a doll.
As Costner's aged, I think he's only gotten better, becoming a more weathered and grizzled actor. He's terrific here and his relationship with Spencer feels authentic.
The tangled family web that has ensnared Elliot, Eloise and Rowena is chock full of issues that are anything but black & white.
As a serious study of race in America, it leaves a lot unsaid, but as a family drama about families working to find common ground and playing to this sappy grandfather who would do ANYTHING for my beloved Grandson, it gets a B.