Saturday, 25 October 2008

Lakeview Terrace

Playing it safe...

Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington) Mattson are a married interracial couple who decide to start their new life by settling in a new house. While having a police officer as a next-door neighbor seems like a bonus, it turns out that the police officer, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), is greatly opposed to Chris and Lisa's interracial relationship. Turner begins to terrorize the Mattson's, forcing Chris to retaliate.

Lakeview Terrace presents a unique concept but decides to portray the story rather simply, and so it is via the characters that the film keeps itself alive. The two most interesting are Chris and Abel who showcase much of the racial tendencies of the film. Chris is married to an African woman, listens to rap music and dedicated to his work and wife. Abel is a very rule orientated man, trying to protect his children from the evils of society. Both Wilson and Jackson portray their respective characters with ease, but neither feel distinguished in doing so. Nonetheless, both have a certain charm which makes for engaging viewing. Washington portrays her character with well, but she lacks the dynamic nature of her male counterparts.

One of the film's greatest strengths, also ends up as one of its greatest flaws: depth. On one hand, Lakeview Terrace pays homage to, and can be well intertexted with John Milton's Paradise Lost. The synopsis and previews simply appear to be about an a police officer harassing his new neighbors, but what director Neil LaBute does so well is to make Abel Turner seem in the right for the first third of the story. The film begins with Turner as he shapes into the film's protagonist, mimicking the appearance of Satan in Paradise Lost. The viewer sympathizes with Turner, like Satan, but as the film progresses, we begin to learn that Turner is very much Milton's Satan - his reasoning becomes perverse and illogical. And like Paradise Lost, the text shifts to Chris and Lisa, who become the Adam and Eve figures. It is this sort of intertextuality which makes Lakeview Terrace a compelling watch especially when it shares many other similarities to the epic poem Paradise Lost.
However the film also lacks the very depth it requires. The race issue is not as hard hitting as it can be: racial tension is perceived from a black perspective and while an interesting view take on events it is still nonetheless not as tangible as racism from a white perspective. There are also two other elements which are underplayed. Abel's police partner Javier (Jay Hernandez), comes across as pivotal somehow but has minimal impact in Abel's favour. The film also has a side plot of the nearby forest fires. While easily metaphorical of tension and the escalation of problems which exist between both Chris and Lisa, and Abel, the fires get way too much attention that the metaphor either becomes too stated, or that the director somehow forgot how to correlate the subplot to the main plot beyond being a means-to-an-end approach.

There is no nudity, but sexual themes do crop up once and a while. Violence is fairly tame while language does appear every once and a while.

Lakeview Terrace is a good film; it is just not a great film. The acting is good; the story is interesting; there is a decent level of social commentary; and is suspenseful. Though nothing ever reaches a level of excellence, with some smaller elements being of a lower caliber to the main. In essence, Lakeview Terrace is the type of film that has easily been simplified as as to appeal to a wider audience which is a great pity since it had all the makings to be a topnotch, thought provoking thriller.


Screen date: 25 October 2008
Release date: 25 October 2008

No comments: