Being Married to a Black Woman is *Really* Exasperating!

I know it’s a little late to be bringing up Lakeview Terrace. Typically, reviews for feature films appear in publications the week the film opens. But let’s be real here: despite its Week 1 box office triumph, Lakeview Terrace is the kind of film you wait a week or two to see… at a matinee showing. And that’s exactly what I did. Frankly, though, I’m fairly certain I would’ve been better off waiting on the DVD release or the bad BET overdub on basic cable (You know it’s coming… in 2011).

But I’ve digressed.

I can’t imagine what drew audiences to this bizarre race film last weekend. Was it director Neil Labute’s arthouse reputation as a skilled provocateur? Was it the involvement of Will-and-Jada’s profitable Overbrook Productions? Was it Kerry Washington’s alleged “hotness?” Or was it simply that surefire, time-honored Sam Jackson delivery of the classic trailer line, “Ah’m the POE-LEASE! You HAVE to do what I say!”?

Maybe it was a little of everything. For me, morbid curiosity was the driving force. I took stock of the premise: black cop terrorizes the interracial couple who move in next door, simply because he’s anti-miscegenation and protected by the badge, and I decided that there was no way this could be executed well. But I certainly wanted to see folks try.

I’ll give you the short version of events here and please note that from this point on, there will be HEAVY SPOILERS. So if you still intend to support Will, Jada, Sam, Kerry, or Patrick Wilson with your box office dollars, STOP READING NOW.

So. Right away, we meet Sam Jackson as Abel Turner, a stand-up beat cop whose territory is a low-rent section of LA. We also meet his two children, Celia and Marcus. Abel, a widower, is trying his darnedest to raise these two little darlings to speak “properly” and to support Shaquille O’Neal over Kobe Bryant (we’re never told why, but we later come to assume it’s because of Vanessa’s non-Black ethnicity—that, or the rape charge… the interracial rape charge).

Abel’s relationship with teenaged daughter Celia is fraught with tension. She deliberately interjects “Ebonics” into her conversations and dresses less than chastely. It’s stock teen daughter/Daddy fare…. until he smacks her. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Abel is shown to have a decent relationship with the multicultural neighbors in the gated community of Lakeview Terrace, a breathtaking berg overlooking most of LA. The first of the neighbors shown is an Asian fellow, with whom Abel makes observations about the new couple moving in next door.

Of course, as is often the case in films and television shows like this, it isn’t immediately clear that Patrick Wilson’s Chris is married to Kerry Washington’s Lisa. See, Lisa first appears in a locked-arm stroll with Ron Glass. The cinematographer spends a lot of time here (and throughout the film) focusing on extreme close-ups of Sam Jackson. He narrows his eyes, as if passing judgment on the May-December couple strolling the perimeter of the palacial house, and barely takes stock of the sweaty White guy dutifully unloading boxes from a UHaul.

Within two minutes, however, Lisa slips her arm out of Ron Glass’s, flits over to Chris and kisses him passionately.

And then, Sam Jackson’s eyes REALLY narrow.

I should probably tell you right now that this movie isn’t about Abel Turner. It isn’t about Lisa. And it certainly isn’t about Ron Glass, who phones in a few scenes as her father, Harold Perreau.

In fact, this film treats all of its Black cast as tertiary in order to reveal its true intent.

This is a film about how hard it is to be a White man married to a Black woman.

See, if you’re a White guy, who’s been courageous enough to fall in love across color lines, your father-in-law will loathe you. Your Black cop neighbor will harrass you — particularly about your preference for really loud ’90s hip-hop and especially for your hot Black wife — and you won’t be able to do anything at all about it… because HE’S the POE-LEASE! And worse yet, when you show just a hint of reticence about readiness to have children, your Black wife (with whom you have little onscreen chemistry) will stop taking her birth control pills, trap you into fathering a biracial kid, and then get really pissed when you’re not absolutely thrilled as soon as she breaks the news… from the floor of the bathroom in your bedroom, as she cries and cradles the toilet.

Oh, and none of these Black people will have any discernable reason for being so vicious or duplicitous. Perhaps it’s just their baser nature as Black people that causes them to behave so uncouthly? Or, as in the case of Lisa, maybe it’s her insecurity about her skin color that forces her to force you into fatherhood. As she tearily claims in the requisite “I’m pregnant” scene, maybe it’s not that you don’t want to have kids. “Maybe you just don’t want to have them with her!”

It’s okay, though. In the end, you get to justifiably gun someone down and, while you bask in the glow of your own clever heroism, you also deign to forgive your weird-ass, over-enunciating, birth-control-pill-skipping wife. Because you’re just that magnanimous.

So that’s Lakeview Terrace in a nutshell, people. You may not want to see this if you’re Black. There isn’t a likeable soul in here for you to identify with — least of all Abel Turner, whose logic devolves more and more as the film goes on (really, dude gets stupider by the frame) and whose already reprehensible, one-note character turns positively cartoonish by his daughter-slapping, homicide-committing, “I’M the POE-LEASE!” denouement. You’ll also find nothing relatable in Ron Glass or the actors who play Celia and Marcus, because about 2/3 through the film, they all disappear, never to be heard from or referenced again.

If anyone among you has seen this flick and come away with a more favorable interpretation of its thesis, please feel free to enlighten me. As far as I can tell, there’s no equity (or realism) for Blacks in Lakeview Terrace.

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slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: http://stacialbrown.com and here: http://beyondbabymamas.com.

26 comments to Being Married to a Black Woman is *Really* Exasperating!

  • Two things:

    One: Don’t be talking bad about Kerry! I SO peeped that “alleged hotness” crack!

    And B: this is hilarious.

  • slb

    dude. i’m not “talking bad” about her. alleged is a perfectly credible adjective there. not everyone thinks she’s a goddesse. :-P

  • ladyfresshh

    aw man why’d you do this:

    This is a film about how hard it is to be a White man married to a Black woman.

    (mind you how i skimmed through that and didn’t see any spoilers is beyond me)

    now i’m all ‘i have to see this’ =\

  • rakia

    slb, you got that right! Kerry’s mouth is weird. I can’t tell if it’s her lips per se or just the way she holds them in pictures. But every man I know — black or white — goes on and on about how stunning she is. She’s cute, but she ain’t all that with a bag of Fritos.

  • quadmoniker

    Prediction: G.D. is going to be really mad at slb and rakia for talking about his future wife that way.

  • “now i’m all ‘i have to see this’ =\”

    LF: I’m totally banning you from this blog if you go see that movie! (Not that I have that kinda power, but you get my point, lol :-) ).

    Also, um, Kerry Washington is fine as hell.

  • rakia

    shani-o, not you too?! I’m not trying to hate on Kerry. I think she’s a supremely gifted actress and my guess is she’ll deservedly win an Oscar at some point. But physically? Um, Kerry is just above average. She’s cute; don’t get me wrong. But is she gorgeous? No.

    Put it this way: if Kerry’s gorgeous and fine as hell, then most of the women I know are too b/c if you gave us professional stylists, make-up artists, good lighting, hair weaves, etc, we’d look AT LEAST as good as Kerry. Notice how she’s not one of those celebrities who gets caught in candid shots. She’s always extra done up for Hollywood events. (Face it, Kerry will attend the opening of an envelope if it’ll get her a mention in People magazine.)

    Just think back to “Save the Last Dance”? Or better yet, Kerry’s first film, “Our Song”? She was attractive but definitely not swoon-worthy.

  • You people are bitter little haters, which is why you cling to your guns and your religion.

  • I guess Labute got tired of hating on white gals so decided to spread the misogyny around a bit. When I saw the trailer I cringed. You could smell the craptacularity all over it.

  • Although Will and Jada were involved in the film, I am assuming the screen writer was white(???).

    I say this because I think the film could have been so much better from a black perspective. I went into seeing this film because I thought the concept of exploring black racism was interesting and not really discussed in our culture. But it was poorly executed in the film and a lost opportunity to talk about race in America. Like you said, there was too much “it’s hard being a white man” going on in the film.

  • Grump

    K-Dub is attractive….peep “She Hate Me” and “Ray”. What makes her swoon worthy, as of recent, was when she 1) got un-engaged, and 2) call former MD Lt Gov Steele on his aprty line stance.

  • Dax Xenos

    Kerry Washington is just okay. As far as the movie goes when I first saw the preview I said I would pass and this review proves that I should. Thanks!

  • Rakia, I always thought she was pretty, but I found her totally stunning in ‘Ray.’ Stylists and all the trappings do make a huge difference, but I think her features are lovely.

    Though, you’re right, she’ll show up to any and everything — she’s like Gabby Union, but with an actual career.

  • quadmoniker

    Rakia: I think Kerry is really pretty, but I agree with your sentiments in general about many actresses: particularly Jennifer Garner, about whom I have an intense and not entirely explained hatred. I would put Jennifer Aniston in that category as well, but I don’t think she’s pretty, even with makeup.

  • rakia

    Shani-O and QM: now y’all are speaking my language. I agree that Kerry is pretty. Even very pretty. But I see a lot of pretty women every day and they don’t have men salivating over them like the men I know do for Kerry. And I maintain my stance that her mouth is utterly weird in pictures.

    QM: You have me cracking up re: Jennifer Garner. I think she’s cute, but she is goofy looking. Big ears that poke out and rubbery lips. She has great dimples, though.

    As for Jennifer Aniston, I think she’s like that nice, popular girl in high school who had a cool car, great clothes and for no reason at all, said hi when she pass you in the hallway. To me, she seems very down-to-earth, despite all the Hollywood hoopla surrounding her and her big-ish nose. Oh, and her hair has been awesome from day one.

    Now y’all have me thinking of other women considered gorgeous who really don’t deserve it. Number one on the list: Pamela Anderson. She’s all boobs and blonde hair. And she has no eyebrows!

  • tabitha

    not for nothing but, unless spike is directing, i think i’m done with samuel l. jackson films. he’s like the black version of Nick Cage to me. lots of range potential early in his career but now pretty much a one-trick pony. i don’t support Nick and I don’t think i can support Sam.

  • tabitha

    btw- i neglected to add… have you *SEEN* The Wicker Man? if you’d seen the Wicker Man, you’d never see another Neil Labute film. it’s EASILY the worst movie i’ve ever seen in my life. i abhor that film. detest it even. it’s actually the reason i’m refusing to support Mr.Cage (ever again) as he starred in said atrocity.

  • slb

    tab-

    i actually saw the last ten minutes of “the wicker man” either a week before or a week after i saw lakeview terrace. can’t remember; it was on cable at my father’s house. lol

    it looked… strange. and nick cage’s screaming and lumpy-face totally baffled me (as did the blue face paint on his costars).

    either way, i didn’t make the connection btwn the two films and their director until after i’d sat through lakeview.

    come to think of it, the end of lakeview and the end of wicker man are rather similar… one has actual fire; the other has firepower.

  • ladyfresshh

    @ shanio – what if it’s black market?

    and i have nothing against kerry btw GD

    i’ll still cling to my guns though

  • Well in that case, go right ahead. Only you can offset the damage this movie does, by putting money in bootleggers’ pockets.

  • Phil Deeze

    1) When Kerry Washington slides off her panties and offers up Chris Rock at the end of “I Think I Love My Wife” many a married man shifted uneasily in his seat because he wanted to say “GET AT IT, CHRIS!!!! TAP IT ONCE FOR US! And my neighbor outside doing yardwork? Clack-a-lack it like coffee one time for him, bro!” Kerry ain’t Salli Richardson back in her “Posse” days, but for a married 30-something guy? You wish her hot @ss was chasin’ you around the office and ruinin’ your life.

    2) The movie was offensive. And very formulaic. “Lakeview Terrace” is to “Unlawful Entry” as “8 Mile” is to “Purple Rain.” I’ll take the original everytime.

  • i know i’m pretty late on this post but I saw most of the movie recently (i HAD to wait to dvd because i could already tell it was going to be ridiculous) i have to agree with your criticisms of the film and find it interesting that the first few comments were not about the film but about kerry’s hotness. BTW i think kerry washington is BEAUTIFUL. i do have to say that i found some of SLJ’s comments funny like “no matter how much you listen to that noise, in the morning you’re still going to wake up white.” Or his commenting on the race of the drug dealer/gangster/pimp character whom he calls a Wigger. Beside from getting a few laughs from his ridiculous racial comments i thought the acting was bad, the script was stupid and the movie over all ridiculous.
    thanks for the post
    be

  • [...] shortcomings of Halle Berry and Jada Pinkett-Smith (see comments) but in light of slb’s review of “Lakeview Terrace”, G.D. and I move for the formal recognition of the Pinkett-Berry [...]

  • [...] 2, 2008 I really did. If you want to find out a bit more about why, check out my review over at PostBourgie.com: I should probably tell you right now that this movie isn’t about Abel Turner. It isn’t about [...]

  • [...] We got a movie hitting the number one spot that makes us look so awful that it’s even hard for a white man to love us and for black men to hate us even more (Lakeview Terrace- please peep the hilarious PostBourgie write up). [...]

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