Rating: 2 stars
Lakeview Terrace is the kind of movie that titillates you with a good premise, then sort of meanders around without actually going anywhere, and then ends in a burst of jarring melodrama.
Insert your own bad-sex joke here.
Too bad. Because all the elements are in place. Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington play Chris and Lisa, an interracial young couple who move into a quiet suburb of Los Angeles. Samuel Jackson, perfectly cast, plays the tightly wound LAPD officer who lives next door with his two teenage children. At first, Jackson’s Abel just seems like a strict task master, an old school dad who grounds his children and insists they use proper grammar. But when he sees his new neighbors, something in him seems to snap, and he becomes truly menacing.
There’s an interesting concept at the heart of this story: Wilson’s Chris has a bit of anxiety about being married to a black woman. Her own somewhat supercilious father (Ron Glass) clearly doesn’t approve of their relationship and Chris feels both self-conscious and inadequate. Chris keeps hoping that Abel will warm up to him and sheepishly attempts friendship, with predictably bad results. When he first tells Lisa that the new neighbor doesn’t like him because he’s white, she thinks he’s projecting. Eventually she sees that Abel wants them gone.
All good, but I kept expecting the stakes to rachet up as the story progressed and they never really did. Abel shines a flood light on their house, making it impossible for the couple to sleep; Abel starts an uncomfortable racial argument at a neighborhood barbecue; Abel cuts the power to the couple’s air conditioning unit, etc.
Adding to the tension: Lisa wants to get pregnant and Chris doesn’t think they’re ready. But this is standard couple-in-distress stuff and it doesn’t really add much to the story. Even Chris’s bad relationship with Lisa’s father is only glanced at. It seems to me that if you’re going to have a disapproving father-in-law character, he should somehow witness Chris’s final showdown with Abel.
In the end, that’s the basic problem with this film. It’s set up like a classic emasculated-male-finally-shows-his-family-he’s-a-protector fantasy. But it doesn’t follow through. Maybe it’s because the director, the great playwright Neil Labute (he didn’t write the screenplay) is interested in loftier things. But the film gets stuck. It’s not interesting enough to be an examination of race in our society and not fun enough to be a satisfying revenge fantasy. It’s a bit of a drag.