Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"Lakeview Terrace"

Well, slap me sideways, I had no expectation for this movie to be good. The trailer made it look laughably stupid, simplistic and familiar, and most critics out there seemed to think that was an accurate representation of the film. But whaddya know, I full-on liked this movie. Interracial married couple Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington are in the midst of moving into their dream home in the epitome of upper-middle class suburbia when we begin, but it doesn't take long for problems to materialize in the form of Abel (Samuel L. Jackson). Abel, like many, doesn't consider himself a racist, but something about the couple next door just rubs him the wrong way. When the couple doesn't adhere to his stringent ideas of how they should behaving and complying with his requests, things begin to escalate, and no one ends up particularly happy.

For director Neil Labute, this is seemingly a job for hire, even by his own admission, but I was taken aback by how much in line it feels with his other works -- there are deeply unsettling themes about race here, and while Abel may evolve to be the "villian" of the piece, Jackson never allows him to be demonized. Many reviews have talked about the third act, saying that it shifts a tense drama into brainless thriller territory, but I disagree with the brainless part. I think the proceedings naturally evolve to that place, and trailer be damned, there are no spots where I thought the movie descended into 'ridiculous' territory. This is by no means a great movie, it's merely a good one, but I'd argue there are much more substantive and subtle things said about race and racism in this than in all of "Crash." Where that film's central theme was "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," things are a bit more complex here; "Lakeview' delves into the factors that may plant those seeds, rational or not, and how seemingly positive statements or actions can be inverse results of reactionary racism, and does it all without delivering a "message" or speechifying.


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