BLOGS

Lakeview Terrace: This is Jackson Country!

by DeAnn Welker September 18, 2008 10:37 am
<i>Lakeview Terrace</i>: This is Jackson Country!

Lakeview Terrace isn't as bad as you probably think it will be. And that's about the highest endorsement I can give it. Which is higher than I expected to give it after watching the trailer.

Things to like about Lakeview Terrace: Honestly, Samuel L. Jackson. He actually plays this part perfectly. He doesn't overact until it's sort of appropriate to do so. And... that's pretty much the end of what's good about the movie.

As far as what not to like, let's go ahead and start with that title: Lakeview Terrace is the kind of title that makes you think of absolutely nothing, so you hope it ends up meaning something in the course of the movie. It doesn't. In fact, we do hear they live on Lakeview Road, but that's it. "Terrace" actually is not uttered in the movie that I noticed. The only possibly reason for the title -- and this is a big stretch -- is that Jackson's character is the "terrorist" of Lakeview, and thus... Lakeview Terrace sounds like "Lakeview terrorist." Oh, and we never see a lake, though they do mention it at one point when there's a forest fire.

The basic storyline is this: A young mixed-race couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move into a neighborhood in which pretty much everyone lives beyond their means. Take for instance: a cop and a grocery store employee living in a huge house with a pool overlooking the hills of Southern California. Totally realistic. But I digress. So, the couple moves in and their cop neighbor (Jackson) hates them instantly because he doesn't approve of a white man being married to a black woman. He's sort of the conservative, racist guy in this scenario (the guy who'd typically be played by a white man). Anyway, he hates them in a way that makes him want to make their lives miserable. This leads to all sorts of bad things, and culminates in a really annoying, unbelievable final act.

There are tertiary storylines about the wife's desire to have a baby, and about the cop raising two kids as a single dad (a strict, mean dad; go figure). But don't worry about getting too involved in these threads as they all fizzle into nothing toward the end. Nothing in the movie is very connected. It's like they had a story about the cop hating the couple that wouldn't fill two hours, so they added all of those extra threads but didn't fully develop any of them.

Oh, and Wilson and Washington's marriage is sort of boring. It's hard to care too much for a couple that has no chemistry, and can't even bother to show any interest in one another. So, that's why, when you combine how boring they are with Samuel L. Jackson's fine, sort of understated (at least in the beginning) performance, you'll sort of be rooting for him. You know he's the bad guy, but you keep thinking, "He's not that bad, though, right? I mean, he hasn't done anything that he can't be forgiven for. He's still redeemable."

And if the filmmakers had decided to actually make a complicated film that would leave you wondering who was good and who's bad, that would have been a lot more interesting. But instead, they decided to hit us over the head with every anvil right up until they actually make this sort of sympathetic character the ultimate bad guy. You know the type: A guy who does evil mostly just for the sake of doing evil. (Oh, and because he's a racist, and his reason for hating interracial MARRIAGE? Has to do with an interracial extramarital affair. Which makes how much sense?)

If you're a Samuel L. Jackson fan, though, this one's worth your time. He really is seething and creepy in almost all the right ways. He plays it calm and understated. He's funny when he needs to be. He's even somewhat charming at times. When he really goes off the rails into overacting territory, it's more the fault of the script than anything else. So, see it for Samuel. And try your hardest to ignore everything else.

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