I've not put a movie review on this bit of my world in a long time, mostly because I've not seen anything worth chatting about.
I liked Lakeview Terrace. No, I loved it. Not just because I think Neil LaBute is one of the very best playwrights around, not because I love his vision when he directs theater, not because I think his work in film(directing and as a screenwriter) is outstanding (I do not put Wicker Man on him, studios get in there, as do producers, and sometimes, the director's vision is lost) Nope, I enjoyed it enough to see it twice, and one of those was at California prices...because it was good. I confess, I still snuck in my drink and candy, but, I paid the double my little town's film prices to get in when I saw it in LA, so, that says quite a bit.
There are a variety of levels to this film, of emotional involvement, of messages given... Sam Jackson plays Abel Turner, who bought his house 20 years prior, in order to keep his now deceased wife and kids out of the 'hood he grew up in, to give them a good start. I loved the opening of the film showed him getting out of bed, and going to his knees in prayer... it added a depth to his character, and, enhanced the later behaviour he shows.
Able controls... his kids, his neighborhood, the people he runs into on his job as a member of the LAPD. He has rules... what appears to be thousands of rules, and does not back off of them, be it his ruling on which basketball jersey his son, Marcus' (Jaishon Fisher) can wear, to how a man he is arresting should take care of his family. His way or the highway is pretty much the way it goes. His children are disaplined the way he thinks it should be, no matter if it is socially acceptable or not. Able's scenes with his daughter, Celia (Regine Nehy) are smartly done, and ring very naturally.
His neighbors are racially mixed married couple... and, the feeling I got was the wife, Lisa (played beautifully by Kerry Washington), was far more at ease than her husband, Chris (Patrick Wilson), who is very shallow in the beginning, very Wonder Bread in behaviour...in the relationship. You get the feeling he really does listen to the rap he blares out in his car to be seen as, well, black. Lisa's father treats Chris with barely contained disdain, displaying his own issue with the marriage. He is so dismissive of his son in law, that after Chris explains their problems with Able, how they feel he is harassing them, the father turns to Lisa, and asks her the very same question Chris has just answered. His voice, his body language, all of it shows his desire that this white man wasn't married to his daughter.
The intensity of the terror (and, yes, it was very terrifying) increases... the understanding they have nothing they can do. Able holds all the cards and grows steadily intense in his pursuit of having them leave, and leave now.
Yes, it all comes to a boiling point, with a wildfire echoing the heat and encroaching danger found in situation. Am I going to give out the ending? Nah. Just know that Sisterwife gave a scream, and was on the end of her seat in the last 10 minutes... talking to the people onscreen. Those in the theater around me gave gasps, a few "Oh, NO!"s, laughter when it was called for, and a few applauded at the end.
Chris grows, which is one aspect I loved... that Wilson found that arc in his character, based on a well done script and a director with a good eye for interpersonal relationships. Although LaBute didn't write the script, there is a definite sense he dabbled in it some. You could feel his hand in some of the dialogue, and his ablility to show us the not-so-nice view of how people treat each other was well used here. The shots are tight, on occasion the close-ups adding to the tenseness of the conversations. In one or two, it was so tight a shot, the entire face didn't fit on the screen... I loved the forced intimacy that it brought on. My favourite shot was during a scene in the bathroom, with an important conversation between Chris and Lisa. LaBute set it up with Chris in focus, looking back to where Lisa is standing... and just over his shoulder, you see her face reflected in the mirror. It highlighted the emotional distance between the two at that point... I was tickled both times to watch it, with that perfect framing to enhance the exchange.
The Investment stayed awake, and gave it a thumb's up, and Sisterwife loved, loved, LOVED the entire thing (a quote).... and not just because Patrick Wilson was in it.
Neil LaBute is a master at his craft, using words and people and the situations in which they find themselves in ways that keep you talking long after you leave either the cinema or a theater. I've always said his work is always based on love. Even Lakeview Terrace falls into that category, as you'll see. How he does it, I'm not sure... not the presentations... that's his talent, it's the continual work, all of it strong, well done and proving his place in the theater/film world.
Go see it, you'll be happy with the decision.
Lakeview Terrace PG-13
Running Time 110 minutes
Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Patrick Wilson
Written by David Loughery and Howard Korder
Directed by Neil LaBute