Film Review – Lila & Eve
Lila & Eve
Even Viola Davis‘s talent isn’t enough to overcome this muddled thriller, Lila & Eve. Getting revenge is a primal thought for us; we image what we would do if we lost a loved one by someone’s hand and how we could avenge them. Watching these films can give us a sense of satisfaction, the joy of seeing bad men get what is coming to them. Then we have the other kind of revenge films, that show that revenge is a bitter pill, that it eats away at us and we can see that it leads to simply more death and destruction. This film tries to do both and does not have the skill to make both ideas work.
Lila (Viola Davis), a single poor mother, is grieving for her oldest son Stephon, who was gunned down by a drive by shooting simply by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. In trying to cope she is going to a support group for mothers who have lost their children. There she meets Eve (Jennifer Lopez), who has a more angry bent to her then the rest of the mothers, feeling that the cops are doing nothing about her dead little girl. Lila herself tries to talk to the detective working her son’s case, Holliston (Shea Whigham) an overworked but surprisingly caring policeman who is trying to solve the case but is having trouble getting a lead because anyone who knows is either to scared or to deep in the gang life to speak up. Lila and Eve start to talk and try to help each other out and eventually get information themselves from local gang leaders, which culminates in them killing a low level dealer when he pulls a gun on them.
Lila is at first horrified by what she has done, and yet we never dwell on this, and she quickly gets over it and moves into working from the phone they stole from the dealer to find out more about her son’s shooter. We then proceed to see these two work their way up the line of command with surprising ease for two women that knew nothing about this life before now. While they are on this now rampage Lila still goes to the group and even starts to flirt with a neighbor which, while it could have been done to make her seem like she is trying to be normal, it actually feels like easy plot devices that are there to make the story move without actually giving Lila any humanity.
This forced momentum comes up too often in this film. There is a scene where Lila and her second son are in the hospital and after Lila wakes up and finds her son in the bed all of a sudden, the neighbor shows up to take them home, with no sense of why he would have been called and how he timed that so perfectly. This is a nitpick I know but the scene is endemic of the overall feel of the film. Things come together too easily or too coincidentally. I never felt that these two women, as they are taking on a powerful drug gang, were ever in any real danger. They move about with such ease, with no body seeing anything and leaving no physical evidence even and no one seeming threatening to them at all. Even if they are in a tough spot the tension is never authentic enough to leave doubt about what will happen. Even on the law end with Holliston investigating what is going on and putting it together seems like fate is helping guide them away from anything that could really get them in trouble.
Lopez as Eve works essentially as the devil on Lila’s shoulder egging her on to go further to find all who are responsible. As a character there is little else to her. Even when we find out more about Eve, which is suppose to be this big reveal, it falls flat. Without spoiling what happens this reveal should have altered our perceptions of what has happened and how the film progresses from there, instead it is simply told to us and we move on to where we were already going with the film so the reveal changes nothing.
Davis as Lila gives us a bit more to watch. The way she carries herself in her grieving is palpable and when we see her trying to be more relaxed or talk normally the pain of her loss is still showing on her face. Yet, when it comes to the sense of what she is doing is weighing on her even she cannot make that seem realistic. Anytime she wants to get out of something, it is clear that a scene later Eve will come along and it will change immediately. It takes away any real emotional depth she had earlier about where some of her choices could have lead.
Director Charles Stone III cannot seem to decide what he wants us to think about what these two are doing. It contrives to keep them safe, as though they are on the side of good without touching on if what they are doing is right. It then tries to shoehorn in some quick scenes before quickly moving on. Yet there is no thrill in the violence when the adversaries are so weak that we know these two middle aged women will take them down with ease, because they are not strong when they kill, just lucky.