Black or White

Rated 4.0

A well-to-do, high-powered attorney (Kevin Costner), driven to alcoholic grief by the death of his wife, must try to pull himself together to fight for custody of his mixed-race granddaughter (Jillian Estell) against the girl's African-American grandmother (Octavia Spencer). Writer-director Mike Binder, who drew one of Costner's best performances in The Upside of Anger, does it again here, and for good measure, he does the same for Spencer. Binder plays with our expectations, setting up clichés of race and class, then undercutting them with surprises. The movie gives us adversaries but no real villains; even the little girl's wastrel, crackhead father (Andre Holland) is allowed a full measure of complex humanity. Anthony Mackie also shines as Spencer's lawyer brother, who presses her case in court.