Friday, September 26, 2008

Lakeview Terrace

I can't decide whether this movie was preachy, or just bad. I will admit that it had some thrilling moments, and may have had potential (the jury inside my head is still out on whether the potential was ever there), but it just did not work.

I like director Neil LaBute. I think Nurse Betty is one of the most underrated movies of the past decade, and I think I was the only person in America who kind of enjoyed the Wicker Man remake. Lakeview Terrace, however, was mediocre in its best moments, and just laughable at its worst.

A recently married couple, Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington), move into a luxurious new home in Southern California. And their neighbor, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), is not making their new life easy for them. The Mattson's may stir up some controversy being an interracial couple, but Turner seems to be taking this personally. From the beginning he starts terrorizing the couple, trying to get them to move. His tactics start out harmlessly annoying, but as his hatred grows, so do his acts. The problem that sets this apart from simply another feuding neighbor movie, is that Turner also happens to be a police officer. To cite cliche police drama terminology, he's a loose cannon. Not only are his personal feelings getting in the way, he's under investigation for improper conduct. Despite these issues, the force is filled with his friends, and there's nothing the Mattson's can do unless they take matters into their own hands.

Okay, so let's just get this out of the way. The movie is obviously about race relations. Everything from the very name of the movie (Lakeview Terrace was the name of the area where the infamous Rodney King beating took place), to the use of wild fire as a metaphor for this strained relationship. This is a good issue to raise, but it's tackled so obviously, and so superficially in this movie that it's almost a joke. There is personal motivation behind Turner's actions. I won't tell what they are so as to not spoil anything, but let me say that his motivation is among the most mono dimensional and blatantly state developments I've ever seen.

The acting was pretty dull in this movie, but it's not their fault. The script didn't lend itself to "acting." Lisa's father (who also disapproves of the marriage) even goes so far as to say "he's got the color factor...and that color is blue." I remember hearing this in a trailer as clever way of revealing that Turner is a cop. But by this point in the movie we were already well aware of this fact. Clearly, parts of the script were written for use in the trailer. This indicates the caliber of writing i this film.

I will say that the movie looked nice. The neighborhood was beautiful, and LaBute crafted a ideal looking environment to front these dark and sinister undertones. There was a wonderful contrast between the real estate, and the actions. Unfortunately that's one of the less important factors. The film is preachy at its best moments; and at its worst, it's just Lakeview Terrible.


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