Movie Review for Lakeview Terrace (2008)

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Review #685 of 365
Movie Review of Lakeview Terrace (2008) [PG-13] 110 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $9.50
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 19 September 2008 @ 7:35 pm
DVD Release Date: 27 January 2009 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits: Nothing

Soundtrack: Download now from Mychael Danna & Jeff Danna - Lakeview Terrace (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below if available

Directed by: Neil LaBute (The Wicker Man)
Screenplay by: David Loughery (Tom and Huck) • Howard Korder (Bad Apple) story by David Loughery

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Samuel L. Jackson (Jumper) • Patrick Wilson (Evening) • Kerry Washington (F4: Rise of Silver Surfer) • Ron Glass (Serenity) • Regine Nehy (Pride) • Jaishon Fisher (The Ant Bully)

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On the one hand, Neil LaBute's Lakeview Terrace is a plodding, methodical drama with a relatively predictable outcome in the vein of another vaguely titled, west coast, drive-them-out-of-their-house genre, Pacific Heights. Yet, on the other because it tackles some deeper social issues such as inter-racial dating and marriage, abuse of police powers, single-parenting, and mental health problems, it attempts to rise slightly above the norm. Of course, it's equally arguable that these are nothing more than window dressing to sell the basic plot especially when, in the end, the film fails to enlighten on any of the social morays it raises.

Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson—who keeps his string of going shirtless in every movie alive and well for those who care) and his beautiful, but seemingly much younger wife, Lisa (Kerry Washington) move into a cul-de-sac in a southern California neighborhood on the semi-good graces of her wealthy father Harold Perreau (Ron Glass). Their immediate next door neighbor, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) spots the move in, but assumes the white guy carrying boxes is the mover and that the older gent scurrying about has just robbed the cradle. In what is probably actually the best acting part of the film, this opening sequence, with little dialogue teaches all about Abel Turner. It's clear from the incredibly subtle things he does that's his wife has passed on, he's raising his kids alone, he's a police officer, and he's still grieving very deeply. Later that move-in day, though, he gets a slap in the face when the mover cozies up to the Mrs. and kisses her under the watchful eye of whom he had presumed was the husband and he must rethink to be the father/-in-law of the younger couple.

… fails to enlighten on any of the social morays it raises.
His eyes nearly pop out of his head. He's thinking, "How did I miss that?" Well, in no short time, Able's true feelings about their relationship comes through loud and clear, as do his resentments. While Chris and Lisa cannot prove anything they begin to suspect he's the one who cut the cable on their swamp cooler and slashed the tires of their new car in the dark of night. Unfortunately, he's got the color issue on his side, as Harold points out to his daughter, "And that color is blue." How can they defend themselves against a rogue cop on a mission to force them out of the neighborhood?

From the outset, there arise complex issues in the relationships between the principle characters. Can Chris balance his adoration for his wife with the pressures he gets from his friends about her not being white? Can Lisa balance her desire to be a mother with Chris's plans to take is slow and ensure stability before bringing another life into their lives? Can Abel overcome his prejudices and assumptions he has toward both of them, while reconciling the grief of his dead wife and the needs of his children? Unfortunately, this screenplay credited to David Loughery and Howard Korder isn't seeking an Academy Award®, therefore there's no real attempt to get at these issues in anything but an entirely unsettling way made only worse by the gut-wrenching ending that is both explosive and tragic.

… entirely unsettling … the gut-wrenching ending is both explosive and tragic …
The net result is a cardboard box flap ending one flips over and seals shut as the credits roll without really looking at what went into the box. It's a fitting, but dissatisfying conclusion to a tension-raising climax. The only real conclusion one can draw is that Able simply never was able to reconcile the mysterious death of his beloved wife to the extent of allowing all of his hard work in getting her a beautiful home in a great neighborhood to raise her darling children go to waste.

The film may be a bit too brutally honest for some. Samuel L. Jackson plays Abel to the hilt. There's no room for compromises, and he doesn't. Less spectacular are the performances of Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. He's a bit too recalcitrant, and she's to spoiled brat. Nobody seems to be that into this movie which is pretty understandable given the plot and the ending. All the while, fires raging in Los Angeles county blaze in the background not far from their cul-de-sac serving, apparently, as a visual metaphor for the those raging in a society where, while far, far improved from 50 years ago, racial tensions still burn high on both sides no matter how much more enlightened people may seem to be becoming.

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Other Projects Featuring Lakeview Terrace (2008)
Cast Members
Samuel L. JacksonPatrick WilsonKerry Washington
Ron GlassRegine NehyJaishon Fisher
Neil LaBute
David LougheryHoward Korder

Review-lite Lakeview Terrace (2008) [max of 150 words]
Director Neil LaBute pokes around in the fires of racial tension in America as well as the grief of losing a spouse to a tragic accident, but his direction of the David Loughery / Howard Korder script fails to burn below the surface. The cast is adequate with Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington playing the bi-racial couple that sparks the ire of Able Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) widower, LAPD officer, father of two and unleashes his rage and plan to rid his neighborhood of them. Jackson is superb, too good for this flimsy film. Lakeview Terrace can be saved for late-night tv debut.

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