You know, it takes a director like Neil Labute to really challenge us. Watch any movie he has directed, and ask yourself if you identify with any of the main characters. His movies contain characters that are nasty and cruel to each other. But they also have traits that we find in ourselves. They pose moral questions that mainstream dramas will not dare touch. There are never any easy answers either. Instead he simply lets the story unfold from the personalities of the characters.
“Lakeview Terrace” involves an interracial couple that moves in next to a black LAPD officer. The couple are played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. They seem like a happy couple. The officer is played by Samuel L. Jackson. Not to long after the move, the officer starts harassing this couple, due to what we think is his opposition to interracial couples. But we learn things about his daily life that make what seems like a one dimensional hatred more complex.
Soon the feud turns deadly and each man finds himself doing things that no decent person would engage in. It brings the worst out of them. But it also exposes concealed problems in their own relationships. I found an interesting tidbit in Roger Ebert’s review of this film. He posed the question of what the scenario might seem like if the harassing neighbour were white, and the interracial couple involved a black man and a white woman? A movie like this makes you ponder such notions, and causes you to search your own feelings on such a subject.
What sets this apart from mainstream thrillers is how deeply it examines the lives of the characters it portrays. This is not just a simplistic fued between to characters representing good and evil. We see their daily lives, and how certain aspects fuel the intensity of this conflict. Also, the area of L.A. they live in, is currently being threatened by a massive fire, which only intensifies the action.
Now the movie ends with a series of events that would seem to be at home in a studio thriller. But ask yourself if each character is right about the way they interpret the situation. Also ask yourself if this is what each character really deserved in the end. The moral questions this movie poses are endless.
The cast is all outstanding. I think this movie should be recognized with some Academy award nominations, but I fear that it will polarize audiences and critics too much. Some will hate it, others will like it, a few might learn something about themselves and one or two people will pass on this altogether, judging the trailer as a preview for a generic thriller. For me I found it engaging and thought provoking.