Projections - Movie Reviews

Black and White Black and White

If the narrative drive of Black and White is its Hollywood-ish pratfall, everything else, including its street sensibilities of the current New York hip-hop scene resonates with early 21st century power.  James Toback's often lively film understands Manhattan's melting pot and exceeds Marc Levin's White Boys as a multi-shaded look at black mores from the white curiosity vantage point.  This edgy, provocative avant-garde piece has too many players and story lines. Synergies fuel Black and White in many ways, but the results lose their way with the naturalistic, young characters introduced.

A spontaneity in this expose on the hip-hop scene, reveals an engaging This Is Rap to enlighten the non-fan, spins to a revealing interracial sex scene in Central park with a black onlooker and passing children.  It's evident that Toback has many original ideas flowing from the viewpoint of the rap/hip-hop personas.  It's more serious This is Spinal Tap that unfortunately is never an enrapturing by-product of a synthesis that has much diversity.

Central to this synergetic collage of music and social integration that's breaking the wave for a new generation, is a businessman/gansta, Rich.  His spacious high-rise is the location to score and get high, as impressionable young Upper East Side white girls frequent the film's first reel.  A fidgety teen, Charlie (Bijou Phillips) is one of the rich hand out chicks who is joined by many white boys who frequent the proceedings of entrepreneur Rich as they revel in this hip way of life.

Documenting the rap/hip hop fusion of cultures on the streets in New York is done with smoothness by Toback as he uses a surprisingly dynamic Brooke Shields (deadlocked with a nose ring) to get the thoughts of kids who are enamored about what's pulsating right now.  Her Sam is teamed up with an openly gay husband Terry (Robert Downey Jr.) who is wryly out of place.  Their investigation highlights a youth movement against parents, but it's concluded to be more fleeting or a phase that will cycle back to its roots.

Black and White, which aims to showcase different identity crises and devaluing stereotypes, branches into melodramas, as the music and the social scene, spun with some sly, taut suspense, isn't as prevailing as it should be.  With Rich's lanky, old basketball chum Dean, a studious Allan Houston of the NBA's Knicks, getting involved with a cop posing as a gambler (Ben Stiller).  Greta (Claudia Schifer) is a somewhat cerebral, but distant graduate student girlfriend who has a past with the edgy cop.

Undeniably, the real urban flavor of New York is enlivened by Toback's insightful, facilitated direction that sees the street life and party sequences, with Sam asking about graffiti and hip hop.  Then the music and characters filled with dichotomies, give Black and White its buzzing immediacy and concentration of atmosphere which leads to an unexpected, extended cameo for Mike Tyson that adds another comic triumph to a Toback film.

Black and White

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