Director and screenwriter James Toback returns to the subject of identity with this thoughtful but meandering drama that, like his other films, is largely built upon improvisational performances. The director's courage is evident in every frame as he addresses a taboo subject: white teens who are willing to do anything for acceptance by their African-American friends and the striving by these same African-Americans to achieve mainstream success in the "white" world. Black and White (1999) starts off strong with a provocative performance by newcomer Bijou Phillips as the most unapologetic seeker of approval from her hip-hop-loving friends. Phillips eventually fades into the background, and the film becomes hampered by Toback's insistence upon grafting a standard crime-drama plot onto proceedings involving a crooked cop (well played with his trademark romantic desperation by Ben Stiller) out to frame a basketball star, and the violent consequence of his scheme. All the threads come together in the powerful finale, however, and despite its flaws, the end result is one of Toback's best films.
by Karl Williams review