While the 2010s were full of solid Kevin Costner roles, like his portrayal of Jonathan Kent in various DC films, or his performances in Hidden Figures and Molly’s Game, the actor put out quite a few lesser-known films in the last decade. In 2014, Costner starred in Black or White, an overlooked drama that just made its debut on Netflix streaming.
In Black or White, Kevin Costner plays Elliot Anderson, who is widowed when his wife dies in a car crash. Elliot and his wife were raising their granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell) after their daughter died, but now, he raises the girl on his own, and Elliot deals with his grief over his losses through binge-drinking. Eloise’s other grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spencer) thinks that Eloise should be under the care of her father, Reggie (Andre Holland). Elliot believes that Reggie is responsible for the death of his daughter, so he fights Rowena’s claim to Eloise.
The two become embroiled in a custody battle, with Rowena trying to keep Eloise out of the care of the hands of her binge-drinking grandfather, while Elliot wants to keep Eloise away from her drug addict father. In addition to Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, Black or Blue also features Bill Burr, Jennifer Ehle, Moonlight’s Andre Holland, Community’s Gillian Jacobs, and Anthony Mackie.
Black or White was written, directed, and produced by Mike Binder, who previously directed Damon Wayans’ 1994 superhero comedy Blankman, and wrote and directed Reign Over Me, which starred Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler. Binder had previously worked with Kevin Costner on 2005’s The Upside of Anger, which Binder wrote, directed, and also acted in. Since Black or White, Binder has directed for the series Nashville, directed Bill Burr’s comedy special Paper Tiger, and wrote, directed, produced, and starred in The Comedy Store documentary series.
Black or White didn’t receive a huge response when it was released early in 2015. The film debuted at #4 in the domestic box-office, fell to ninth place the next weekend, and fell out of the top 10 the following week. Despite boasting a cast that included Oscar winners like Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, Black or White made just a little over $21 million worldwide, with almost 99% of that coming from the North American box-office.
While critics weren’t too kind to Black or White, the film did receive a more positive response from the few audience members who did see it. The film currently holds a 39% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, but also has a 65% audience score, with over 10,000 ratings. Bilge Ebiri of Vulture said “Black or White isn’t so much an offensive movie as it is a pointless one,” while Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine said, “Kevin Costner scowls and darts around the dubious thin line between ‘racism’ and un-sugarcoated ‘truthfulness’ that only anti-P.C. wingnuts actually believe exists.”
Even though critics weren’t a fan of Black or White, many seemed to believe that Kevin Costner was doing solid work, despite a screenplay that didn’t do him any favors. In many ways, that seems to be a consistent theme or Costner’s films in the last few years, that while the films themselves might be great, Costner is actually great in them. Despite the criticisms of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, many still think that Costner is doing solid work in the role. While he only had small roles in films like Hidden Figures and Molly’s Game, Costner was praised for both films.
Recently, Kevin Costner has mostly jumped from films to television, starring in the hit series Yellowstone. Soon after its premiere, it was reported that Yellowstone was the second-most-watched television on ad-supported cable channels in 2018, behind only AMC’s The Walking Dead. Yellowstone will soon be receiving its own spin-off on Paramount+, with Y: 1883.
But Kevin Costner hasn’t completely ignored movies, as in 2019, Costner starred alongside Woody Harrelson in Netflix’s The Highwaymen, and provided voice work for The Art of Racing in the Rain. Last year, Costner starred with his Man of Steel partner Diana Lane in Let Him Go.
Even though Kevin Costner’s films in the 2010s haven’t been as popular as his work in the 1980s and 1990s, even critics who don’t enjoy Black or White admit that the film features a very good performance from Costner. Black or White is now available on Netflix.