Good intentions and fine performances could not rescue “Black or White” from drowning in a maudlin miasma of stereotypical predictability.
“Elliott Anderson” (Kevin Costner) devastated by the loss of his wife, faces a custody battle over his biracial granddaughter, whom they raised since birth; their seventeen-year-old daughter died giving birth; “Eloise” (Jillian Estell) is an adorable seven-year-old, surrounded by affluence, attends a private school and has pool parties in her back yard. Enter, paternal Grandmother “Rowena/ WeeWee”(always spectacular Octavia Spencer) claiming her junkie, ne’er-do-well son “Reggie” (Andre Holland) should have custody of his daughter. The melodrama commences.
Anthony Mackie, is terrific as Wee Wee’s brother and lawyer “Jeremiah”; he represents the family’s case in court; the solid scenes between the “black” side of the film resonate with hammered viability and reality; regretfully, the focus languishes, when concentrating on the paler perspective.
More than the “custody” war, the underlying theme was the shameful substance abuse exhibited by Elliott and Reggie; Elliott (a lawyer) stumbles, at times incoherent, from one scotch- infused moment to the next; Reggie, a crack-addict, is so overwhelming inadequate that it takes a huge, fantastical leap, to imagine what Elliott’s daughter initially found appealing about the limited lout.
Neither black nor white, the film withers in a bland fug of gray.