Black or White

Kevin Costner's impressive turn gets lost in this broad, stereotype-filled drama

Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner in 'Black or White.'

Kevin Costner gives everything he's got to the role of Elliot Anderson, a widowed Los Angeles lawyer with a penchant for the bottle and a shot of self-pity. Elliot finds what focus he can in his seven-year-old biracial granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell). Elliot and his wife had been raising the girl since their daughter, only 17, died giving birth to Eloise.

Now Elliot is determined to go it alone – that is, until Eloise's long-absent, drug-troubled dad, Reggie (André Holland of The Knick), shows up. With Reggie's mom, Rowena (the reliably superb Octavia Spencer), ready to back him up in a custody battle, the stage is set for family warfare. And no one is shy about playing the race card.

Writer-director Mike Binder, who worked beautifully with Costner on 2005's The Upside of Anger, finds himself on the downside of juggling stereotypes. The contrast between Elliot's whitey affluence and the lively chaos of Rowena's black household is drawn in laughably broad strokes. Yet you can feel Binder's commitment to the volatile material, best realized in a courtroom scene in which Elliot takes the stand to make a distinction between racism and race awareness.