After more than 25 years, director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) returns to a story of the relationship between a black man and his white employers, in a way that can’t help feeling slightly archaic. Susan McMartin’s screenplay—“inspired by a true friendship,” so the opening title card says—tells the story of single mom Marie (Natascha McElhone) and her daughter, Charlie (Britt Robertson), and their cook, Mr. Church (Eddie Murphy), who comes to work for them after a bequest in the will of Marie’s late boyfriend. Murphy’s restrained performance works for a character trying to avoid showing too much of himself, occasionally erupting with anger in a way that helps dodge some of the most egregious “magical Negro” tropes. But the tone of Beresford’s direction turns the episodic narrative into something more akin to melodrama than character piece, resulting in a central relationship between Charlie and Mr. Church that feels like a writerly contrivance towards Important Life Lessons. While Beresford knows how to push basic emotional buttons, he can’t make this movie play like something that actually belongs in the 21st century.
Director: Bruce Beresford
Producer: David Anspaugh, Fredy Bush, Yu Cheng, Brad Kaplan, Scott Karol, Lawrence Kopeikin, Dennis Pelino, David Tish, David Buelow, Mark Canton, Lee Nelson and Courtney Solomon
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Britt Robertson, Xavier Samuel, Natascha McElhone, Lucy Fry, Christian Madsen, Mckenna Grace, Natalie Coughlin, Madison Wolfe, Lincoln Melcher and Kathleen McMartin