I have been a fan of Kevin Costner for as long as I can remember. Octavia Spencer is a dear friend. So needless to say, the opportunity to see them onscreen together is one I simply couldn't pass up.
At a recent Q&A I attended with Costner, he said it best, "I'm fully aware of the fact that because I am a 6'1" white man that makes it easier for me to work in Hollywood than others...that doesn't make it right". He further said that the only way this would change is "by having more actors behind the scenes writing and producing". He boldly declared that if he believed in a script strongly enough he was "willing to make that long walk down the hall to get it made".
Why did I post all these comments? Because in Black or White, Eloise (fabulously portrayed by Jillian Estell) finds herself in the middle of a custody battle between the "white" and "black" sides of her family. Her grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) believes that she would be better off with Eloise's father and their side of the family. While Elliott (Kevin Costner) , desperately trying to hold on to his last living family member is accused of purposely trying to shield Eloise from the "black" side of life.
Octavia Spencer as Rowena brings humanity and realism to a role that could so easily have been portrayed stereotypically, as we have seen so many times in the past onscreen. However, she gives Rowena grit and is more in sync of the types of women you will see in our community. Although Spencer is young, it is a well-known fact that most African-American women find themselves as grandmothers even in the 20's. She seamlessly blends her comic sensibility with the most dramatic moments reminding audiences why she is an Oscar winning actress.
Kevin Costner, being a native of Compton, CA, should be applauded for bringing this story to light. It's not new, but it is timely with all the numerous discussions in 2015 about diversity. No matter what role and what film, he always make you fall in love with him all over again. His grief-stricken Elliott is an acerbic grandfather with a drinking issue, but the love he has for his granddaughter transcends color lines and is neither black or white...it just is.
Andre Holland as Reggie and and little Jillian Estell as Eloise are bringing their 'A" game and note that you read it here - they are forces to be reckoned with! I look forward to more of their work in the future.
Anthony Mackie is stellar...as usual and Gillian Jacobs along with Mpho Koaho lighten things up with their brilliant comedic timing. One of my favorite moments is when Koaho as Duvan continuously hands out papers he has written as confirmation of his various services for hire.
Black Or White made me painfully aware of what I organically already know as a person in color in this world. Progress has been made, but the journey is far from over.
As Costner states in the film, "What is the first thing you notice about someone? Is it the size of someone's breasts, their smile or the color of their skin?" At the end of the day, it's not about black or white...it's about right or wrong. Most white people assume that black men are walking validations of an age old stereotype - crackheads, deadbeats or thugs.
We ARE our environment and the next time you judge someone based on the color of their skin and not the content of their character...think twice. Black and White are colors not the definition of a human being...not now or ever.
Black or White opens nationwide today, January 30th.