On Neil Labute's "Lakeview Terrace"

Neil Labute is an eviscerating playwright, screenwriter, and now, director, who makes squirmy films that are hard to ignore or look away from. Usually they present the dark side of male bonding and distrust of women, as in In the Company of Men (1997) and Your Friends and Neighbors (1998), which features Ben Stiller as a worldclass creep. But the star moment of that film is Jason Patric’s confession scene, when he describes his best, er, “romantic encounter,” as the time he raped a classmate in high school. Labute directed the recent upending of race-stereotypes, Lakeview Terrace (2008), which stars Samuel L. Jackson. For the first three-quarters this is a terrific and queasy film, with Jackson playing a menacing black cop who doesn’t like the mixed-race marriage of his new neighbors. What’s impressive is the moral, ethical, and legal gray areas he has the characters inhabit, where the white yuppie neighbor may be harmless, but more at fault than the menacing, close-to-exploding Jackson. I also liked how the film had me and my wife calling out at the characters like in a horror movie, “Don’t look in the closet!” Although in this case it was “Don’t complain about that stupid security light!” (Funny: I’ve lived in inner-city neighborhoods next to psycho neighbors. The main thing I did was a) ignore them, and b) stay out of their way.)
Overall Lakeview Terrace is a good film, intense and unsettling, although toward the end it does take a hokey turn for Hollywood fireworks. Eventually Jackson and the neighbors end up in the Big Confrontation Scene. It makes for some tense moments, but also seems contrived. Jackson does a great job playing the angry black cop, and the film weakens when he strays into the angry black maniacal cop zone. Plus there’s a fire metaphor that gets a bit heavy-handed at the end.
One of the suburbs threatened by the recent southern Cal fires was, you guessed it, Lakeview Terrace.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *