HATE THY NEIGHBOR: FROM PAGE 79
feeding his own demons. But there’s something blurry about Lakeview Terrace, and it’s not just because of the smoke drifting in from the metaphorically significant brush fire chewing its way through the film’s Southern California hillsides. It seems that the script wants to probe the underlying racial ten sion not just between Abel and Chris but also between Chris and Lisa, the elephant in the room of their mixed race marriage. And it might have resonated had the exchanges themselves felt like more than typical marital squabbling, or if Patrick Wilson could convey more than middle-class pique.
Like Crash — a film to which this one seems inescapably connected — it feels mostly self congratulatory about pointing out that, yes, we do still live in a country where we can’t always “just get along.”
Eventually, however, even that degree of subtext begins to feel like too much for director Neil LaBute. Doing another piece of Hollywood “will direct for food” work, LaBute leaves behind all of the incendiary skill he brings to his own material. The film degenerates into a rote pattern of escalating confrontations, inevitably involving a knockdown drag-out between Abel and Chris.
As generally happened with Lakeview Terrace’s long-ago cousins in the “from hell” sub-genre, the antagonist gets less interesting — and less believable — the crazier his behavior gets, until it’s just a matter of waiting for the last shot to be fired or the last punch to be thrown.
Lakeview Terrace doesn’t really tell us anything about how much the world has changed over the past 15 years — only about how much screenwriting has stayed the same. Grade: C
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