The Good: Good acting, Decent characters
The Bad: Predictable plot, Mood
The Basics: Lila And Eve is not bad; it's just everything one would expect from That Type Of Movie.
Remember when Jennifer Lopez could open a movie? Remember when studios banked on her to open movies, even during Summer Blockbuster Season? Perhaps the best marker for the lack of cache in a performer's reputation is when they transition from being a Sure Thing to appearing in counterprogramming against the obvious blockbusters. As Ant-Man erupts onto screens as - predictably, and planned - the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film to top the weekend box-office on its debut weekend, Jennifer Lopez and Viola Davis are given the dramatic counterprogramming on the indie film circuit to Ant-Man and Trainwreck with Lila And Eve.
Lila And Eve gets right to its point. Viola Davis earns top billing in Lila And Eve, where Jennifer Lopez serves as her sidekick. Davis plays Lila, Lopez plays Eve and the pair works well as a team of distraught and angry mothers who are seeking justice for their dead children. While law enforcement might not love the concept to Lila And Eve, the revenge drama is pretty much the wheelhouse for Lopez, much like Davis seems to be able to dominate the angry wife/mother niche.
Stephon is shot while walking down the street on night. His mother, Lila, is distraught and goes to a group therapy session. When Eve walks out, Lila strikes up a conversation afterward and finds that she is able to actually open up to her, despite how jaded Eve is. After Lila goes to the police and discovers how much of a dead end they are at in investigating Stephon's murder, she begins to empathize more with Eve and her disillusionment. Unable to sleep and worried for her other son, Lila lets Eve into her life and her apartment to commiserate about their pain (Eve's daughter was killed). While Eve is visiting, Lila discovers a pistol in Justin's (her other son's) bag.
Eve and Lila stake out the corner Stephon was shot near. When they approach one of the local thugs near the end of the night, he draws a weapon on them. Eve shoots him in self defense and steals his wallet and cell phone to try getting a name of the person who killed Stephon. As the police investigate the murder of Donelle Peete, Eve and Lila follow their own leads. Their pursuit of justice leads to them leaving a trail of dead bodies as they follow the names of those who were responsible in the death of Stephon.
Lila And Eve is a very basic grief-motivated revenge drama. Through a series of flashbacks, Lila's relationship with Stephon is illustrated very explicitly. That sets the film up for a seemingly predictable resolution, but I was pretty pleased when the "twist" was more compelling than simply Eve using Lila to get to the men who killed her daughter. The fact that Eve helps Lila kill her way up the gang food chain instantly contrasts Lila's relationship scenes and that acts as a red flag that there's something not quite right about Eve. That said, what is off about Eve is far more interesting than the simple revenge story.
Even more than the twist, what actually makes Lila And Eve worth watching - because it is! - are the performances. Jennifer Lopez might be given a supporting role, but she nails it, especially in the final act when she is saddled with a lot of exposition. The supporting performances in the film are pretty wonderful. While Julius Tennon's brief role as Ben allows him and Davis to exhibit great onscreen chemistry (which is good because they have been married for years!), Chris Chalk's part is eye-opening. Chalk played Gary Cooper on The Newsroom (season two is reviewed here!) and his menacing role as Alonzo makes the actor virtually unrecognizable to fans of his more articulate and relateable role!
Similarly, Andre Royo and Shea Whigham make the most out of their potentially monolithic roles as detectives.
But much of Lila And Eve hinges on the performance of Viola Davis as Lila. Davis has the requisite range that the role demands, playing quiet and grieving, determined and dealing (during the scenes where Lila redecorates her home), and furious. In order to sell the last act, Lila And Eve demands an actor who could be both appropriately grief-stricken and functional for the detective work and firearms handling that defines the character. Viola Davis is an excellent choice and she does all that the role demands.
Ultimately, Lila And Eve is a quiet success; it is a film that is not going to light the cinemas ablaze with spectacle or interest, but those who see it are likely to be satisfied that they have not wasted the hour and a half.
For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
No Way Jose
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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