Directed by: Neil LaBute
Premise: An interracial couple (Kerry Washington and Patrick Wilson) move into a new neighborhood and find their single parent neighbor (Samuel L. Jackson) disapproves of their relationship. The relationship between neighbors gets increasingly antagonistic and things are further complicated when Jackson’s character is revealed to be a police officer.
What Works: Lakeview Terrace starts out very strong. Where Crash took a “mile-wide, inch-deep” approach, Lakeview Terrace begins by delving into the intricacies and subtleties of racism and race relations in a way that is much more complicated. Washington, Wilson, and Jackson go into places, at least in the first third of the film, that few studio pictures have dared to. Interracial romantic relationships, especially between a black woman and a white man, are still very rare in Hollywood film and Lakeview Terrace does an admirable job with it, at least to start. The film also introduces an interesting component by placing Jackson as a police officer who works cooperatively with his multiracial department. The character is presented as hardnosed, but the film also shows why he is like that and Jackson, as usual, gives a terrific performance while walking the line between guardian and menace. As a thriller, Lakeview Terrace mostly works with some growing threats from Jackson’s character and mounting tension between neighbors.
What Doesn’t: Although Lakeview Terrace starts out strong, the film gets sidetracked by its law enforcement component, borrowing heavily from Unlawful Entry. As the film goes on it becomes less and less about the plausibly interesting racial themes that it began with and disintegrates into a feuding neighbor storyline. When the motivation for the racism of Jackson’s character is revealed, it simplifies and cheapens the issue before dropping them completely. The ending is a significant let down, not forcing any of its characters into a new revelation about themselves or about their relations with each other.
Bottom Line: Lakeview Terrace is entertaining as a thriller and Jackson’s performance is good but the film is a significant let down because it could be so much more.
Episode: #206 (September 28, 2008)