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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Lila & Eve movie review: rage engaged

Lila and Eve yellow light

When movies like this star the likes of Liam Neeson, they open on 3,000 screens. It’s difficult not to see racism and sexism in the disparity.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Viola Davis

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez become accidental vigilantes on the streets of Atlanta after their children are killed in random shootings and the cops don’t seem to take much notice. When movies like this star white dudes such as Liam Neeson or Russell Crowe, they open on 3,000 screens. This one is opening on a handful of screens and simultaneously on VOD. It’s difficult not to see racism and sexism in the disparity. Lila & Eve, from director Charles Stone III (who is black), is certainly no worse than many of the films studios presume will appeal to widespread mainstream audiences, and it’s a lot better than some by sheer dint of the fact that it does not star the likes of Neeson or Crowe and as such has a freshness that a different perspective can bring. And this one is a lot more plausible, both narratively, thanks to the ungimmicky script by Patrick Gilfillan (race unknown), and emotionally, thanks to the onscreen goddess who is Viola Davis (Blackhat): she drags her Lila across a minefield of grief and rage and takes us along with her via an unignorable, undeniable empathy, and emerges in a place where what Lila does might challenge our ethics but never our sympathy for her pain. (Lopez [Home] is also very good as a more aggressive character than we’re used to seeing her play.) There might not be a lot that’s unsurprising here, but even the bits that should be cheesy never descend into the silliness they might have… and often do in the movies that get the splashy openings. Is utter ridiculousness the requirement for a wide release that Lila & Eve is missing?


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Lila & Eve for its representation of girls and women.


yellow light 2.5 stars

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Lila & Eve (2015)
US/Can release: Jul 17 2015 (VOD same day)

MPAA: rated R for violence and language

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • LaSargenta

    Ok, I will be seeing this, not that I’m totally into the “accidental vigilante” idea (how the hell is that an ‘accident’, anyhow? You have to make a choice to become a vigilante!) but Davis is great on screen and — even though I’m sure this is an unpopular stance — I enjoy Lopez’ acting, too. Wish she got better roles, tho’.

  • I like Lopez a lot too, but no, she doesn’t get a lot of great roles.

    As for the accidental… you’ll see. :-)

  • Tommy Daly

    The “requirement” Ms Johanson is Liam Neeson isn’t foolish enough to put a rom-com actress like J-Lo into a film that required an actress that was capable of carrying her own with Viola Davis. This was like pairing Al Pacino with Adam Sandler, only Sandler never made a song like “I luh you Papi”. How they convinced Davis to work with J-Lo is…oh wait, a truckload of money. Neeson’s films are well known subject matter to fans, J-Lo’s fans expect her to be in a bridal gown falling into a fountain. Throwing out the race and gender cards on this one was not your best idea…

  • Since the reported budget of this film (under $5 million) is less than the paycheck Neeson alone gets for a film, I doubt “a truckload of money” is what got anyone onboard.

    But since you’ve obviously seen the film, why don’t you tell us how J-Lo failed to measure up to Viola Davis.

  • Mark Johnston

    I agree with MaryAnn. Racism was highlighted in the film in connection with the priorities of police work, and Ms Johanson’s point about the treatment it got on release is well made. There is also a certain irony that the only awards are from black organisations.

    This film is exactly what the critics of the 2016 Oscars are talking about – to combat the sickness in American society you have to take racism seriously and not cheapen any protest with ‘playing the race card’ gibes.

    You clearly haven’t seen many, if any J-Lo performances if you describe her as a rom com actress.

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