Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lakeview Terrace

I watched this movie last night. I bought it a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to be ready to watch it. I am glad I was ready. It was a good movie, not perfect, but very good. On the surface, it's a movie about a Black police officer who is terrorizing his neighbors who are an interracial married couple, a Black woman and a White man.

But that is just the surface. Deep down it is about the male psyche. We see two different men presented as a contrast to each other: Chris, a mild-mannered, New Age, enlightened male who has married the woman he loves, who happens to be Black. Abel is the other man, an uber-Alpha male who is used to being in charge, and the king of all he surveys. He happens to be a Black police officer who has been recently widowed.

Chris is a man adrift. He has identity problems. He doesn't know if he's an alpha male or a beta male. He is in love with this wife, but he has not adjusted to being a married man who is settled down and starting a family. When Lisa, his wife, discusses the possibility of having children now. He doesn't want to start now, because he's not ready. In fact, I think he is scared witless out of fear of yet another burden on his shoulders.

Yes, the racial issue is a prominent thing, but at the same time, it's a red herring. Abel is a racist, but only through opportunity. He doesn't like the fact that a young, mild-mannered White man has a Black wife who loves and looks up to him. He takes this personally. And any so-called morality goes right out the window.

Abel is a rotten human being who is in a position of authority. He lords over everyone and everything. The way he talks to his children is utterly wrong. I am not saying he cannot be a disciplinarian over his family, but he takes it too far. The way he treats the suspects also shows his need for control. His partner is scared and in his thrall, willing to look the other way at Abel's acts of brutality and breaches of ethics.

Chris and Lisa have a good marriage, but not perfect. I have discussed with others that there seems to be little affection in the interactions of the couple. One woman I talked to thought that Patrick Wilson, who plays Chris, might have been uncomfortable in the role. When I see the movie, I see that Chris is not a man who is comfortable in his own skin. I think Wilson is showing this through his physical body language. I don't believe his issue is discomfort with the interracial relationship, although his male ego resents being confronted by Black men about being with a Black woman. When Lisa tells him that she is pregnant, he is angry because he thinks she forced his hand by 'forgetting' to take her birth control. Maybe she does. I didn't take his discomfort with her pregnancy as his fear and reluctance to have a baby who is biracial. I think this issue was fear about being a father, and the responsibility of being a husband and a father. You see, Lisa is a father's girl. Her father is a successful man who seemingly has spoiled his daughter. Chris isn't doing that great financially. He does have a decent job that he seems to hate, and their home is a 'starter home' and clearly looked upon with disdain by Lisa's father. This is another blow to his male ego. This friction with Lisa's dad is displayed in a restaurant scene where Chris confronts Lisa's dad about never talking directly to him. Lisa's dad then asks, are they planning on having children. I took this as, 'what are you going to do to protect my daughter and grandchildren,' partly because of the interracial confrontation issues but also financially.

There is a scene in which Abel throws a stag party at his house with this cop coworkers. They have strippers at the party, and Abel entices the strippers to basically accost Chris. The scene is very cruel and it seems to show Chris' emasculation in that he is not that kind of man to enjoy carousing with strippers, so he must not be a real, 'alpha' man like Abel and his cop brethren. That was hard to watch.

To be honest, there were more than a few hard to watch scenes in which we see the cruelty that Abel is capable of. But also the way Chris pushes his wife away when she tries to intervene as he tussles with Abel through the fence. He says, "Get off me," and I think he pushes her pretty hard (for a woman, particularly who is pregnant). That scene also bothers me.

The thing I like about this movie is that the couple, Chris and Lisa are committed to each other for the long haul, and it is clear they will stay together. At the end of the movie, Chris realizes what he is about to throw away through his fears about being a married man with children. He shows he is ready to commit to his family.

So I have to say that this is a clever movie. It draws you in for the interracial romance and associated conflicts with the racist neighbor, but it really is a study of the male psyche and how a man feels that he should act to be perceived as manly by other men and the women in their lives.