When we first see Kevin Costner in the indie movie Black and White, he's got his head in his hands. His neck is large and wrinkled, befitting an older man in distress. His wife has died in an accident, causing a new stage in his already beleaguered life as it unfolds in Mike Binder's latest film. The well-to-do couple was raising their granddaughter Eloise after their daughter died in childbirth. Her black crack-head father is MIA. Now Costner's Elliot is on his own, and the father's mother--an entrepreneur with attitude galore played by Octavia Spencer takes him to court. At a sneak preview in East Hampton this weekend, prior to a featured screening announced for this fall's Toronto International Film Festival, Binder introduced the movie and its star to the all-white audience, explaining that the story of raising a biracial child whose custody was challenged by a black paternal grandmother was based on his own experience.
The script is excellent, taking turns you never thought possible with information that could be trite and stereotypical. Late in the movie, which also stars an excellent Anthony Mackie and Andre Holland as Eloise's (Jillian Estell) father, Elliot deploys the N-bomb, as in "street n----r" which results in a courtroom speech about racism, catnip for Oscar consideration, in which Ellliot publicly expresses his deeply flawed humanity. It's Kevin Costner at his best. Said Kevin Costner after the screening, he loves Mike Binder's scripts because "he's an American filmmaker," writing on American themes: "All I needed to do was find the character's physicality."
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.