Black or White (2014) Script

MAN ON PA: Dr. Patterson, line 3422, please.

Dr. Patterson, line 3422.

(♪ PAOLO NUTINI: "WHITE LIES")

(WOMAN ON P.A., INDISTINCT)

There's a heart

On the line

And it rests

With your eyes

Please don't fade

And please don't cry

'Cause it's all white lies

Take a chance

Watch it fall

Grab too much

And lose it all

Now I've lost

My disguise

It was all white lies

(ELEVATOR DINGS)

MAN: Elliott.

Hey.

(LINE RINGING)

MAN: You've reached Dave Anderson. Leave a message.

David, it's Elliott.

I'm gonna go home.

They'll be taking her body to Richter Memorial.

I'll come back in the morning, meet them, go with her, see what's the next step.

I'll talk to you in the morning.

My brother.

MAN: She's gone? Yeah.

(STAMMERS) Well, what'd the doctor say?

That they, um...

That they did what they could.

Oh, my God, Elliott... I'm so sorry.

I can't believe it.

What are you gonna do now?

I don't know. Probably just go home.

Well, you want some company?

'Cause I can come by and just hang, you know?

You know, drink, not drink. Talk, not talk. Listen, not listen.

Maybe tell some stories, go for a walk, or uh...

You know, I'm kinda hoping you're gonna say no here so I can stop doing this, all right? No. Thanks, though.

(SHAKY VOICE) I feel so shitty. I know, man. I know. I'm sorry.

(SOBS)

Stay here

Lie with me here

Oh lo-fi

Lonely sighs

I will roam

Lost but never alone

Hide with me

Hide with me

Now you move

With the tide

And I've heard you've found

Peace of mind

I now know

That life's design

Moves around white lies

White lies

White lies

(KNOCKING ON DOOR) GIRL: Grandma? Papa?

(GRUNTS)

(KNOCKING CONTINUES)

GIRL: Grandma? Papa?

Honey, hold on. Hold on, hon.

OK, come in.

(DOOR OPENS)

(SQUIRTS BREATH SPRAY)

Hey.

Where's Grandma?

She's not here. Come give Papa a kiss.

How's my Puppy?

(BARKS) Mm.

Is Grandma gonna take me to school?

I don't know. I think, um...

I think I'm gonna take you to school.

(GIGGLES)

Can you finish getting ready?

Yes. OK.


(LIGHT KNOCKING)

What's going on?

You need to comb out my hair.

Really? You... You can't do that yet? Nope.

Not from the top down, from the bottom up.

OK.

Wow.

(GRUNTS)

(SIGHS)

This is every day? Yup.

Eloise! We can't be late, honey. ELOISE: OK.

Wait, wait, wait. Shut the door.

Here. Put this in my hair, please. Your hair?

OK.

Rosita, can you help me find my sunglasses, please?

All right. There you go.

You tied it like a tennis shoe. It needs a bow.

Like Grammie does it. All right.

Come redo it.

Let me try again.

All right, there's your bow.

Now what?

You're supposed to make me brush my teeth.

I am? Yes. Grammie makes me every day.

Forces me. All right, well then, you...

You get up there and you brush your teeth, young lady. Right now.

Say it like you mean it.

Well, I mean it, all right? I mean business. Right now!

Good job.

Are you lost? No, I um...

I thought it was on this street. I'm just...

(GRUNTS) I'm on the wrong street.

Thought it was somewhere else.

Isn't that called being lost?

Yes, normally.

I mean, it could be, but it isn't now, right? I'm... not lost.

How come you don't know? You come to school every day.

You don't know how to get here?

I'm not driving. I'm sitting in the back.

If you're lost, you can tell me. I don't care, Papa.

Yes, I'm lost.

ELOISE: We've gotta hurry up. They're all inside already.

I know, Puppy, I know. OK, we're right here. See?

I'm gonna be late! They're all already in there.

It's OK. Just tell them your grandfather got...

Got lost? Yes, you can tell them I got lost.

Does that make you happy? It does.

Go on.

(SCHOOL BELL RINGS)

ELLIOTT: I didn't have the strength to tell her.

Now I'm terrified that one of the kids in her class will say something to her.

I need to be there when she gets out of school.

I need to tell her.

It's OK. You'll tell her.

Uh, meantime, we have some good food here for you both to eat.

Yeah, I was calling about a memorial service and a burial.

Um... I had spoken to Father Mackley.

He suggested I give you a call.

I'm gonna make some dishes for you, Elliott, some pre-cooked things for you two to nibble on.

(DRY CHUCKLE) OK.

Uh, do you need to call her grandmother? Reggie's mother?

What does she call her, "Wee Wee"?

Grandma Wee Wee? Yeah.

Why would I call her, Rick?

I mean, really, why would I call any of them?

We're not related. All right?

Carol wasn't related to them.

Guess if I was gonna... call anybody, it'd be that piece of shit son of hers that nobody's seen or heard from in three years.

Believe me, the last person I need swarming around me right now is Grandma Wee Wee.

Bad enough I have... you two.

Sorry.

(CHILDREN CHATTERING)

You didn't have to do this, you know. I could've...

I could've come on my own. Oh, come on.

We want to be with you right now. What a pretty school.

I heard it's like one of the best ever.

Tell me your name again? Fay.

That's right.

You're right, Fay.

Hey, there she is.

Hey, are you sure you're up for this?

Why don't I just grab her, we'll take her back to the house, tell her later when you're... I'm fine. Relax, Rick.

Fay? (GRUNTS)

(SQUIRTS BREATH SPRAY) RICK: That ain't gonna help.

Papa, Andi Jacobson wants me to come over and scrapbook at her house today.

You want to do that?

(SLURRING) Go scrapbook over at Andi Jack... ogym... Johnson's house?

No. But I told her I'd ask you.

Well, you did. You asked and I said no.

Thank you.

Let's go over here for a minute, Eloise.

Talk with you about something.

We had a bad night last night, Eloise, you and I.

Grandma Carol was killed in a accident.

A car accident.

A man hit her and...

...and she and he and several others, they're all gone.

Have you been drinking?

I... I have, yes. That's why, um...

That's why Rick and his girlfriend Fudge are out there in the car, 'cause I've had a few drinks.

I don't like it when you drink.

I know.

Her name isn't Fudge.

Rick's girlfriend, it isn't Fudge. Who said it was Fudge?

It couldn't be. You did. No.

You said Rick and his girlfriend, Fudge.

No, I said it was, um...

...it was...

(SIGHS)

I actually don't remember her name. Her name, it isn't Fudge.

I just know that. No, no. No, no, of course not.

It couldn't be Fudge.

I'm so sorry about your grandma, Eloise.

I know you loved her a lot.

(STAMMERS) And she loved you so very much.

(VOICE CATCHES) I'm sorry.

Are you OK, Pup? No. I'm super sad.

(ELOISE MOANS)

So am I, sweetheart.

(ELOISE SOBS SOFTLY)

It's the worst day of my life.

(♪ LILY COSTNER: "LONG AS I CAN SEE THE LIGHT")

Put a candle in the window

'Cause I feel I've got to move

Though I'm gone, gone

I'll be coming home soon

Long as I can see the light

Pack my bags and let's get moving

'Cause I'm bound to drift awhile

Though I'm gone

You don't have to worry

Long as I can see the light

(SOBS)

Long as I can see the light

(CONTINUES SOBBING)

Guess I've got that old traveling bone

'Cause this feeling won't leave me alone

But I won't

Won't be losing my way, no

Long as I can see the light Oh... (SIGHS) Mm.

Mm-mm. Mm-mm. Give me some love. That's right.

Oh...

Oh...

Elliott, Elliott, Elliott.

Oh.

Every time I come out here, I tell myself, "One day, Rowena, you're gonna get Elliott to invite us all out for a swim."

You got a plan for Eloise in light of all this?

ELLIOTT: Not sure, not yet.

Probably just love her. That's the plan for now.

Mm.

She's got a whole lot of family down with me. Mm-hm.

I got my Kristen, and her cute little gay family across the street.

And her darlin' little music teacher wife.

Got two of my brother's girls and my sister's boy.

All on my dime. (DRY CHUCKLE) Go figure.

Well, you can always come visit, come for a swim. How's that?

I know you don't like my boy. (DRY CHUCKLE)

I know you're still angry, but this isn't about Reggie.

He's not in the picture. This is about Eloise.

OK, got it.

(CHUCKLES) Got it. Jeez...

Have a sandwich, Rowena. Maybe a drink. All right?

Enjoy yourself.

I'd go somewhere and play some poker if I was looking to enjoy myself.

Maybe a Lakers game.

Not here for a good time.

It's a wake, remember? Fine.

Point taken.

Toothpaste, toothbrush, in your mouth, now.

What? Madder.

You gotta be madder at me like you mean it.

Let me, uh...

Want me to just go out and start again?

Yeah.

Eloise, you brush those teeth! I mean it.

Don't make me come in there and have to say it twice.

Nice.

Aren't you going to drive me to school?

Yes.

OK.

(CLEARS THROAT)

Morning.

(SCHOOL BELL RINGS)

You're in the third grade and you're dealing...

(ICE CUBES CLINKING)

You're in the third grade and you're dealing with this level math?

I didn't deal with this stuff until... ever.

Does that mean you're not going to help me?

Of course not.

Not at all. Let's take a...

Let's take a shot at this.

I'm not very good at math, though, all right? I'm a lawyer.

You know what we're good at, right? What?

Nothing.

(CHUCKLES) That was...

That was a joke.

(DOORBELL RINGS)

Hi. I'm Duvan. Are you Elliott?

Yes, yes. Uh...

Nice to meet you. Come on in. Thank you.

(CHUCKLES) Come on in.

My résumé.

A list of my study courses.

(CHUCKLES)

A paper that I wrote for the National Math Board on systemic dysfunction in proper Algebraic education.

That's good. This is good.

You want a drink? I would... like a drink, yes.

OK, good. What do you like? I got the works.

Oh, no, just a water, please.

And... another paper that I wrote.

In the flyer, my piano lessons.

I have a fall special that I'm currently running that offers the piano lessons half off when purchased with tutoring in either math, science or any of the eight languages that I have listed there.

You sure you don't want a cocktail?

You're very, very qualified, Duvan. That's good.

Because Eloise, she's special.

She lost her grandmother... my wife, about three weeks ago in a car crash.

I don't want her to fall behind in her studies.

What about her mother? My daughter?

She died during childbirth. She had congenital heart problems.

My wife and I weren't with her at the hospital when she was born.

Weren't invited. Or included.

We, uh... We weren't called, let's just put it that way.

The doctors weren't aware of her medical history.

I lost my father, my grandfather and two of my brothers.

Killed by murderers, along with 300 others from my village.

I'm sorry.

A paper I wrote on literature's effect on grief for the library of the National Endowment for Children's Literature.

I have also written a paper on channeling our emotions in a positive direction using meditation and alternative grief counseling.

That's good, but there's gonna be something else, all right?

It's not gonna be just Eloise.

It's gonna be me as well.

I'm gonna need a little tutoring in math myself.

Is that gonna be a problem?

No, that will not be a problem at all.

I do, however, charge by the student.

(CHUCKLES) Yeah, I'm sure you do.

ROWENA: Elliott, it's Rowena.

Now I need you to pick up that phone and call me, baby.

I know you're in pain. Your pain is my pain.

That little girl is my little girl. OK?

Pick up the phone. Call Wee Wee. Call Wee Wee.

Kyle had 32 shells.

He gave eight to his friend.

How many shells does Kyle have now? Eight to his friend?

Eight to his friend. This might be a bit easier for you.

But write it down, please, both of you.

No, I'm good. You sure?

Yeah. Yeah, I'm good.

So what's the deal with, uh, Jonny Quest's sidekick?

Where'd you find him? ELLIOTT: Craigslist.

RICK: Oh, yeah? He's very good.

So what's going on? What's so important you had to see me?

(SIGHS) It's Reggie's mother.

You know who her baby brother is, right?

He's a senior partner at that new firm over there on Flower.

She's got him threatening to file a family court hearing on custody of Eloise unless you deal with her.

Threatening or filing? Threatening, at this point.

Well, that's hilarious.

They don't know jack about family law. They sue corporations, Rick.

They make billionaires beg. They don't...

They don't do custody hearings.

Well, guess what, Elliott, neither do we.

Have you thought about that?

Listen...

Do you really plan on raising this girl? Full time?

I'm not being a dick. I'm just asking. Are you sure you're up for this?

(SOFTLY) You know... raising a little black girl all by yourself?

Little black... What the hell does that mean? She's not black!

All right? She's half black. All right.

She's also half white.

Which, by the way, what does that have to do with anything?

That's the stupidest thing you ever said to me. I expect that...

I expect that from Wee Wee, not you.

OK, well, technically, she has just as many rights as you do.

Just enough to have it brought up in a hearing.

So I suggest you go and talk it out with her before she gets the state involved.

I'm telling you, Rowena's brother is not somebody you wanna mess around with.

The guy has like six different degrees.

Well, you know how many degrees your rectal thermometer has at home, Rick?

(LAUGHS) You know where you put that thing? Shit.

These are the study papers for the next time that we meet.

Can I go watch TV now, since I worked on my homework?

Of course you can, but first, say good-bye to Duvan.

Bye, Duvan. Bye. (CHUCKLES)

Thank you, Elliott. Hey, Duvie, can I ask you something?

I know you offer a lot of services, teach a lot of languages.

Different skills, you know, shit. Yeah, I do.

Can you drive?

I mean, for some good money. I'm not, um...

...capable of driving... right now.

Could you drive me around town a little today?

Of course, I can do that.

Good. Good. Uh... (KEYS JINGLING)

Don't tell me you've written a paper on driving, though. Don't tell me that.

(♪ BILLY JOEL: "DON'T ASK ME WHY")

All the waiters in your grand cafe You do drive well, Duvan.

Thank you. (CLEARS THROAT) Um...

Where are we going?

South of downtown. South Central.

Have you been there?

No. No, I have not. (ELLIOTT CHUCKLES)

Probably seen it on television, though.

- CSI or something? (LAUGHS) I don't watch much television.

No, of course not.

I'm afraid, for me, it is not a nourishing form of entertainment.

Maybe you should consider curtailing the amount of hours Eloise watches television.

OK. Got it. Good tip.

Let's get off at this exit here. Right here.

Don't wait for answers Just take your chances

Don't ask me why

Mm, you can say the human heart is only make-believe

I am only fighting fire with fire

But you are still a victim of the accidents you leave

As sure as I'm a victim of desire Right up here by this tree.

(♪ KIL THE GIANT: "EVERYWHERE")

Margaret. Elliott.

(MAN RAPS INDISTINCTLY)

(LAUGHS) What's up, Elliott, man?

Give me some love, man.

I'm sorry again about Carol.

Thanks, thanks. Where's your aunt?

She in the garage.

Who's this?

Uh... This is Duvan. He's, uh...

He's my bodyguard. (LAUGHS) No shit.

You got you a bodyguard? Wow.

Is it just me or has the whole world gotten real gullible?

(TV ON, INDISTINCT) Hey, Uncle Victor.

Hey there, Elliott. How's it going? Good.

I would get up, but this back's been killing me.

No worries. I know the feeling.

("OLD MACDONALD HAD A FARM" PLAYING)

(CHILD FUSSING)

MAN: Look who's here. WOMAN: Hey, Elliott.

WOMEN: Hey, Elliott. Hey, come here. Give me some love.

Come here. How are you? ELLIOTT: I'm real good, thanks.

All right. This is, uh... Duv... Duv-something.

Um... Elliott got him a bodyguard.

Ooh! Really? You're a bodyguard?

No, that is just some humor that Elliott had implied earlier.

Come here. Give me some love anyway, Mr. Bodyguard. Come here.

Oh, wow, I feel safer already.

(LAUGHS)

You OK, Mr. Bodyguard?

(WOMAN LAUGHS)

(LAUGHING)

Oh, hey, uh... when we come back in, maybe you can speak to them as a group about watching too much television.

Well, well, look who came to visit.

This is quite a setup, Rowena.

Quite a setup. (WOMEN TALKING, INDISTINCT)

Always impressive.

We aim to impress.

Do our best.

You're welcome to have one.

I just bought out the men's department of a Sears going down.

Got some beautiful suits for some lucky men in the neighborhood.

(BOTH CHUCKLE) ROWENA: Can only help, right?

Who do we have here? Oh, this is Duvan, our math tutor.

ROWENA: That's good. Math is good.

Math is my middle name, babe. (CHUCKLES)

Rowena, you're not gonna really take me to court, are you?

Eloise is happy where she is.

Eloise needs more love than just what her grandfather can give her.

Now Carol... God rest her soul...

...Carol was a mom.

She and I, we had us a bond.

Therefore, I had no reason to worry about my grandbaby.

And now you do?

Well, there are certain things a man can do, certain things a woman can do.

I don't wanna have to be the one to spell that out to you, Elliott.

Especially a man your age.

I already told her that you're all welcome to come visit.

I'm thinking with things the way they are, life dealing us all the hands we've been dealt, she's been dealt, we need to start talking about a shared custody.

Not gonna happen.

No? No.

Like I say, you're all welcome to come visit.

But you don't want her down here, do you, Elliott?

Down here with the black folks. Don't... Don't start with that.

Got her a little black math tutor. Is that gonna do it? Hm?

Take care of that whole half of her soul?

What is it with you? Why do you always have to go there?

What is it with you that you don't wanna admit that there's a "there" there?

And you. You're a math tutor. Is that it?

He gets $25 an hour?

Damn, that's a good business. (SCOFFS)

Is this Elliott's ride here? Yup.

He's in the garage with your mom and his bodyguard.

Elliott has a bodyguard?

He got himself some fancy foreign bodyguard.

The goofiest thing you've ever seen.

Come on, Rowena, don't be stubborn.

She's in one of the best schools in the entire country.

One of the safest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

You and I know a different version of the word "safe."

That girl belongs down here with her family, Elliott.

You just want her away from me.

You just want her... That's all you want.

You just want her away from us. The black people.

Now why... Why do you always have to checkmate me with that shit?

You always do this. You always say something like that.

How am I supposed to respond?

After all your son put us through?

The hell he unleashed on Carol and my daughter, I think you'd...

...I think you'd have the common sense to understand he can never be anywhere near her.

Don't be coming down here lecturing me, all liquored up, about common sense, Elliott.

I'm this girl's grandmother whether you like it or not, OK?

I'm just looking out for my babies. Yeah.

My baby boy and my baby granddaughter.

Ahh...

WOMAN: Bye, Elliott. MAN: See ya, Elliott.

Send Eloise our love, hear? WOMAN 1: Oh, no.

WOMAN 2: No! (ALL LAUGHING)

WOMAN 1: Elliott, no.

WOMAN 2: Elliott, that's not your car!

That's not your hooptie! MAN: Elliott.

WOMAN 2: That way! (ALL LAUGHING)

MAN: Look at that.

(GROUP TALKING OVER EACH OTHER)

Yay! Bravo! Bravo!

(ALL CHEERING)

WOMAN 2: Make it home safe!

I'd like to introduce you all to my sister, Rowena.

As you've all been briefed, my sister has retained us...

(LOW CHUCKLES) ...for a family custody matter.

In front of you, you all have iPads full of all the filing information we will have access to in processing this case.

Now this is, to us, obviously much more than just a child custody hearing.

It's much bigger than that.

This will be argued as a breach of a minor's rights to her family.

To her people.

Taken away by a man who, for some reason, don't too much care for black folks. (ROWENA STAMMERS)

Wait a minute, Jeremiah.

I didn't exactly say that. I'm sorry.

I mean, he lost his wife, he lost his daughter, and he isn't sure he feels safe with her down with us.

Oh, he's got a problem with black people.

If he didn't, we wouldn't be here, right?

You'd be at home making some kind of dinner for the child, helping her with her homework.

Let's just say there was a nice little white family, just like yours, but white, living in a nice little white neighborhood, willing to pick up the responsibilities, take care of the child.

You mean to tell me that little girl wouldn't have come to that funeral with her suitcases packed, ready to go home with them?

Now I give him credit for what he's doing, taking care of the child and all, but he's only doing it because he feels like he has no other option.

Do you want what's best for the child? Yes.

Then he has a problem with black people.

Now it's our job to make sure that he and the court understand that very clearly.

(QUIET CHATTERING)

(TELEPHONE RINGING)

Elliott. So good to see you.

It's good to see you too, Rita.

I hope this means you'll be back.

I'll be back. Not... Not sure when just yet.

The intel we have says they're gonna come guns blazing.

We think they even had something to do with the seating of the judge, but that's just speculation.

Either way, it's Cummins. Judge Cummins.

They got themselves a black lady judge.

In family court, you might as well close up shop now.

A lady judge is always gonna go with the mother.

If there's no mother, the state or the grandmother.

And a black lady judge is never gonna give a little black girl to a white grandfather.

All right, let's talk about Rowena.

She was born and raised in LA. One of six.

Never went to college. She's a self-made woman.

She has a real estate license.

Owns about six businesses, three homes.

She's raising three nephews, a niece.

She has a daughter who lives across the street, a gay woman and her wife.

And then she's got the son, Reggie Jr.

He's been convicted three times on felony drug charges.

Pretty much is the bad apple of the family.

MAN: Oh, we'll find her weak spots.

Get a couple of private investigators shaking her tree for a week and a half and believe me, a lot more bad apples are gonna fall out, no doubt about it.

The point is, are you OK getting ugly, Elliott?

We can get a lot uglier than they can.

Remember that, Elliott.

You wanna keep your little granddaughter, damn well bet you're gonna do just that.

Just give us the go-ahead.

(SIGHS)

Something else I wanted to talk to you about before you go.

It's your drinking.

This is my brother-in-law, my sister's husband.

He's in Alcoholics Anonymous.

I don't have a drinking problem, Rick, all right?

I enjoy drinking.

If it were a problem, I'd stop.

Yeah, what do I know, right?

I'm just the guy you brought along, dragged up through the ranks, I couldn't possibly know anything. I hope that's not the case.

I picked you to represent me, right?

You're about ready to get dragged into a street fight here, with both hands tied behind your back, and the booze is gonna do its best to make sure you lose Eloise.

All right?

Just call my brother-in-law.

All right.


What are you doing? I'm gonna make you pancakes.

You're not the only one who can make pancakes.

Set the table, please.

Puppy, do you ever...

...you ever think about living somewhere else?

Where?

I don't know, maybe... over there with Grandma Wee Wee?

With your cousins? Would you want that?

For us to go live there?

ELLIOTT: No, it wouldn't be me, it'd just be you.

I'd visit, you'd come back here, visit.

But... you'd live with them.

Would that maybe be better? No.

I don't like that.

I like it here.

With you.

With Rosita and my friends. I know, but maybe I'm like a...

...you know, I'm...

You know, I'm just like an old guy, El.

Don't you think a seven-year-old should be hanging out with other kids?

I'm with other kids all day long. You're talking silly, Papa.

Set the table, please.

"'Who are you?' I ask, and aim my watch light at the voices.

The light reveals a mermaid.

No, five mermaids, all with green and orange swishing tails.

The tops they're wearing look familiar, but I can't figure out from where."

What? (WHISPERS) I love you, Papa.

"'We're Lana's sisters,' the one in the middle says.

'She has short, butter-colored hair and she's wearing a white..."

Are you OK, Papa?

I'm good.

It's just a really sad story.

It's not sad. It's about a mermaid that takes her family on a vacation.

No, I... I know.

It just reminds me of another story. A sad one.

I just got sad.

It's fine.

"'We've been spying on her but we can't get too close to the shore. Is...'"

(KISSES) (♪ DOROTHY MOORE: "MISTY BLUE")

"'Is Lana OK?'

'Not exactly,' I say, before explaining the whole story."

Oh

It's been such a long

Long time

Look like I'd get you off of my mind

But I can't

Just the thought of you

Turns my whole world misty blue ELOISE: Papa! Come brush my hair!

Papa, are you sure you're OK?

You seem like something's wrong with you.

No, baby, I'm fine. Papa... Papa just had a rough night.

OK.

OK.

OK.

OK.

Let's go.

ELOISE: Where are you going? You seem like something's wrong.

Where are you going? Why is Duvie all dressed up like that?

I have a business thing this morning. He's coming with me, OK?

It's fine, honey, all right? It's fine.

You've been drinking. That's why Duvie has to drive.

I told you. I told you that I had a hard night.

What? Where are you going today?

Just a business meeting, Puppy, now get inside. Go on.

Go on in the school.

(LOW CHATTER)

What's she doing here? Who, Fay?

Oh, she's never been in a courtroom.

You really are a piece of work.

This is their brief.

You need to derail all this for me, Rick.

I don't know where Reggie is, OK?

But when he comes back, he's gonna want to take her.

And I can't let that happen.

You've been drinking again? What makes you say that?

Well, Hadji drove here, your breath smells like Binaca, and you look like you spent the night getting dragged through cobblestone streets by angry villagers.

Other than that, I'm just guessing.

Hey. Fay, my name is Fay.

I said, "Hey." As in hello.

Hey.

You gonna be all right in there?

You go in there, all right? And you get this done.

You understand?

What's his problem? Ah, he's under a cloud of crap.

Hey, you excited? Yeah. (GIGGLES)

I'm so proud of you. Thank you.

CUMMINS: Who is the lead counsel for the Jeffers family?

I am, Your Honor. And who is the lead for Mr. Anderson?

I am, Your Honor.

Rick... Rick Reynolds with Stacy, Vertell, Anderson and Beighan, on behalf of Elliott Anderson. CUMMINS: OK.

And I assume this is Ms. Jeffers, your sister?

Yes, Your Honor. Pleased to meet you.

OK. Um, I have your brief for parental custody on behalf of Ms. Jeffers and I want you to know up front, I think it's a bit of an overreach.

Why aren't you asking for shared custody?

Well, Your Honor, we feel that the child's environment is not conducive to her growing up with a strong sense of self-esteem.

We feel that she is in need of much more support, community and history than she's currently getting living with her grandfather.

Well, unless you're gonna be making some pretty serious claims about her grandfather, who she's lived with her whole life, that you don't seem to be making here, I don't think we have enough to warrant a hearing on full custody.

I mean, not when we're talking one grandparent to another, right?

CUMMINS: Uh... OK, anything else, Mr. Reynolds?

Anything other than your briefs?

Yes, only Your Honor, if I can quickly tell you that Mr. Anderson and his wife went through a life-altering tragedy when their 17-year-old daughter, completely unbeknownst to them, became pregnant by Mr. Reginald Davis, Jr., who at the time was 23 years old.

The pregnancy was hidden from them by their daughter for the first several months, and then she was gone from them for the last several weeks, hiding away at a friend's in shame.

When she had the child, the Andersons were not informed, and as such, were not at the hospital when their daughter died, in a case of indirect maternal death that they felt would've been preventable had they been present during the labor.

JEREMIAH: Your Honor, as horrible as this may be, it has no bearing on the custody of the child at this time.

RICK: Actually, it does, Your Honor, because it speaks loudly to the roots of Mr. Davis' track record as a father, starting from the night she was born.

Your Honor, our petition has nothing to do with Reggie Davis.

It's on behalf of his family. His mother.

His mother has nothing to do with him?

Not at this time, Your Honor, no.

My boy is in pain, Your Honor. He's a good boy.

He's lost. He's trying. But he isn't the issue.

The issue is this man doesn't want our family in our baby girl's life, and we just need to be.

Now she has to be living with us. That's all there is to it.

Also, Your Honor, sad to have to say, he's got himself a drinking problem that needs to be looked into.

Just as a side note, your people got some work on their hands looking into that, if you ask me.

The man can drink.

Mr. Jeffers, if we do go ahead and move to hearing, that... that's not gonna happen again, am I right?

'Cause I won't put up with that. You are correct, Your Honor.

It... It won't happen again.

OK, the clerk will schedule a family custody hearing and I'm gonna order psychiatric evaluations of young Miss Anderson.

And please beware, all of you, that when we go down this road, the state has custody options other than the Jeffers and Mr. Anderson, so we will all be very courteous and respectful.

All right? (BANGS GAVEL)

BAILIFF: All rise.

DUVAN: Seemed like that did not go so well.

ELLIOTT: Yeah.

DUVAN: Have you thought about learning a new language?

When I am low, or in a place in my life where I cannot make things happen the way I want them to happen, sometimes to busy myself, I teach myself a new language.

It really seems to help me feel more at ease.

Even if truly I am just distracted.

Duvan, tell me the truth.

What planet are you really from?

OK? I'm not gonna report you, I just would like to know.

(INDISTINCT CHATTERING)

(GAME BEEPING)

Eloise, are you sure you're OK?

You want to talk at all about what you talk with the lady about?

No. I'm OK.

What do you talk about, honey?

Uh, I don't know. We talk about my daddy, I guess.

If I have dreams of him.

Do you? Yes. Sometimes. Are you mad?

No. Not at all.

The lady said me wanting to see my daddy would make you angry.

The therapist said that to you?

Actually, she asked me if it would make you angry if I dreamed of seeing my daddy.

What did you say? I said I didn't know.

(BARKS)

I just dropped Eloise back at school.

She had another one of those... therapy sessions that the judge ordered.

They're starting to get to her.

She's changing, Rick.

These people are getting in her head and I don't like it.

RICK: OK, I'll get into it. Why don't I swing by the house in like an hour?

We need to petition a judge on this, all right?

And I don't want these damn therapists messing with her head.

We need to limit this. - All right. I'm on it, I'm on it.

(SONG PLAYS ON TV) ELLIOTT: Eloise.

Eloise, this is the paper you were supposed to turn in, right?

Didn't we work on this with Duvan? I don't remember.

You have to finish this homework, honey, all right? Isn't it due tomorrow?

I think it is. Well then, turn that thing off there.

Turn it off, and get to work on this now.

Papa, you need to stop being so mad all the time. It's not healthy.

(PRACTICING BASIC PIANO)

Very good, very good.

(PIANO FADES)


You're back.

You're back. I'm so glad.

I have so much I need to talk to you about.

Rowena wants to take Eloise.

Of course I... said no.

That's what you'd do, right?

(SNIFFLES) I miss you so much.

Don't go away again.

(SOBS) Please...

(CARTOON PLAYS ON IPAD)

What did we say, hm?

What did we say about watching cartoons?

I forget. No, you don't.

We said no cartoons until the homework's done. It's not done.

Now, turn it off.

Eloise, turn that thing off. All right?

I'm being serious here, honey. This is my serious voice.

You're about to make Papa very angry. Now turn it off!

I'm gonna count to three. I'm being serious. One... two...

You listen to me when I'm speaking to you, young lady, do you hear me, huh?

Do you hear me?

I don't know who you think you're dealing with here, but I'm not gonna put up with it!

Eloise, come here. I don't want to live with you.

I want my daddy. (DOOR CLOSES)


(CHILDREN LAUGHING, SHOUTING)

RICK: Elliott, you gotta get down here

- as fast as possible. ELLIOTT: What's up?

It's Reggie. - What about him?

- He's here. Where?

Here, in our office.

He just showed up, said it was important, said he needs to see you. You need to get down here.

(SIGHS) Hey, Elliott.

What's up?

Follow me.

Rita, I think this one's gonna need some strong coffee.

(DOOR CLOSES)

What do you want?

Just, uh... wanted to say hey.

Hey? Good. (DRY CHUCKLE)

Now what do you want?

Elliott, don't be all that way, man.

I need you not to be all harsh and shit, please.

You came here, Reggie. Now what is it that you want?

I wanted to talk to you about the girl.

My daughter. Eloise.

Mm-hm. What about her?

Well, I know from Rex and them that my moms and Jeremiah and them, they wanna... they wanna take her from you.

There's gonna be a hearing and, um...

I could just go ahead and say that you should have custody of her, but...

...I just, I need some help now, Elliott.

(DOOR OPENS)

I meant me.

The coffee's for me.

(DOOR CLOSES)

I need some money, Elliott. Why am I not shocked?

Why don't you get it from your Uncle Jeremiah. He's a big shot.

He don't think a whole lot of me.

Mm-hm. What makes you think I do?

What about your mother? I know you don't have a problem taking money from her.

Well, she's not gonna give me anything unless I come home and do things her way.

Why would I give you anything?

Well, I thought...

...I thought that I could make things easy on you.

You know, just not be around during all this.

(SCOFFS)

So you, um...

...you think by your staying here, it makes it easier for them to take Eloise from me.

Let me tell you something. The girl, your daughter, Eloise, she's the only decent thing you have going.

Yeah, I know, Elliott. I know that. No, you don't.

You don't know shit, all right?

You don't know your head from your ballsack.

I've half a mind to snap your neck right now, you understand?

I am clean, Elliott.

I've been up in Seattle, trying to get it together, trying to stay clean. Bullshit.

No, it's not bullshit. I'm on a new path. And you got me wrong.

I just...

I'm just hurting with some debts, man, and I could use a little help.

And I'll go away, man, for good this time.

You aren't going anywhere.

You be out at my house tonight at 7:00 for dinner, with flowers, a gift, and a strong line of bullshit.

You come say hello to Eloise, OK? Eloise. That's her name.

She needs to see you.

She wants to see me? Really?

She's in a lot of pain.

REGGIE: OK.

OK, 7:00. I'll be there.

Then we can talk some more, you and me? About that... about the money?

Get out.

Now. Just get out!

Think I got everything. Yes.

I'm gonna shower. No rush.

Wow. You look very, very pretty, Puppy.

Did he say where he's been?

Yes, he's been away on business.

Did he say why he hasn't called? All this time?

There was a problem, um... with the phones where he's been.

He feels badly.

But he's coming right now. That's all that matters.

Right? Yes. That's all that matters.

Why don't you go help Rosita in the kitchen.

OK.

What you making for me, my daddy and Papa?

ROSITA: Potatoes and chicken.

Rosita?

Fix yourself a plate to eat, bring it in here, sweetheart.

I'm sorry, Puppy. He, uh... He must've gotten held up or something.

Can I be excused, please?

Of course you can.

(CLATTERING)


(ELLIOTT GRUNTING)

(PANTING)

You don't have to hide this, OK? (SNIFFING)

This is all I drink, you know that. This is all I drink.

OK? You don't have to hide it. It doesn't do me any good.

I know you think it helps... but it doesn't.

You understand?

Oh... (BREATHES DEEPLY)

Jesus.

(RAPID KNOCKING ON DOOR)

Who is it? It's Wee Wee, Elliott. Open up.

ELLIOTT: Oh, Lord.

(SNIFFS) Please, God, give me a break.

(SNIFFS, SIGHS)

You said we were welcome any time to come swimming, right?

Rowena, are you kidding me?

We came over to have a good time today, Elliott. What do you say?

Hey, guys! ALL: Hey!

Hey, baby.

Eloise, your grandmother's brought over a pool party.

Are you in the... Are you in the mood to go swimming?

Yes! Can we? Please, Papa! Please, Papa!

Please, Papa? ALL: Please?

Of course.

Come on in, everyone. ALL: Yay!

(♪ THE LITTLE WANDS: "DANKA DANKA")

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

(EXCITED CHATTERING)

Hey, good morning. Thank you.

Welcome. Welcome. (WOMAN WHOOPING)

(EXCITED CHEERING, SHOUTING) MAN: Yeah!

(PEOPLE WHOOPING)

Hey, Dondi, y'all get that table set up. I'll be right back.

WOMAN: Whoo!

Uh...

Elliott, I need to tell you something.

Reggie's outside in the car.

Reggie's here now?

Don't get upset. He's out...

Don't get upset. He's out front?

He told me about last night.

Now, Elliott, you need to let the past be the past.

He's off all the drugs. He's cleaned up, he's changing his whole life.

Oh, please. It's true.

Look past that sour hangover attitude you got wrapped around your face and listen up for once.

Elliott, he's afraid you're gonna get all up in his face and embarrass him in front of Eloise.

You know, you wouldn't know the truth when it comes to this guy if it came up behind you, slapped you on your fanny.

Hey! What happened to you last night?

Huh? Where were you? Man, I wanted to come.

I just couldn't... You know what?

Actually, I don't give a shit. Just get your ass in the house, Reggie.

Go on, Reggie. You don't have to be afraid of me.

I wouldn't dream of embarrassing you to make you look bad in front of your daughter.

Listen, Elliott. I wanted to be here last night.

I did. You need to know that.

All I need to know is you broke her heart again.

You should be ashamed of yourself. I am ashamed of myself, man.

All right, but you don't make it easy, Elliott.

Every time I come around, you just rain down hate on me, man.

It makes it hard to come around. I'm sorry it's hard on you, Reggie.

You want to blame it all on me now?

That's a load of shit. That's like a mile-high load of shit.

Man, I screwed up, OK? I screwed up last night.

I couldn't come here and I couldn't face up. All right? But I'm here now.

But you're not here, Reggie. All right? You're not here.

You're not in the house.

You're out here in the street, sitting on your car, doing what?

Huh? What, catching some rays? Shaking off last night's buzz?

You can go to hell, Elliott. I'm not going in there.

Is that it? You just gonna walk away now?

I do you the favor, let you make up with your daughter and you're just gonna walk?

Is that what you do? You're gonna...

What, are you gonna sulk?

You gonna sulk all the way back to Compton?

You're unbelievable. You know?

You not only broke your little girl's heart, but you're killing your mother.

You can't do any worse than that, Reggie.

You know what? You need...

You need to quit acting like you're some kind of little street nigger.

'Cause you're not.

You come from a good family.

MAN: Morning, Elliott. Morning, Andrew, Bill.

(DOG PANTING) My granddaughter's father.

Goddamn crackhead, inconsiderate asshole!

Yeah!

(DRY CHUCKLE)

(♪ MIKE LUSK: "HONEY")

Hey, Uncle Vic. Hey, buddy.

When you look in my direction

I can tell you feel it too

You could make a soul connection Do you know who that is, Eloise? Is it my daddy?

Why don't you get out of the pool and go say hello, baby?

You got something I need to see

Oh, show me the honey...

(SONG FADES)


(♪ DAMATO: "BACK TO YOU")

It's not fun unless I have you by my side

'Cause you're beautiful

(♪ NEVILLE IVEY: "BABE I LIKE YOUR WALK")

Babe I like your walk

Now see that girl like a 747 coming in to land

Watch that baby maneuver Uncle Vic, you seen Reggie? No, I sure haven't.

How's the game? Oh, it's not good for the bookies.

ROWENA: Oh, my.

This is major.

You drew this?

You swear to me?

'Cause I think your grandfather must've gone out and bought this somewhere.

No. He didn't. It was me. You're a true talent.

That's good.

This skinny one right here, is that supposed to be me?

No. Mm.

That's not my favorite.

But it's good.

(WHISPERS) It's good.

Dondi, have you seen Reggie? No, I haven't.

(MUSIC CONTINUES) (LAUGHTER CONTINUES)

Twenty-five grand. OK?

Twenty-five grand to go away, until you can get yourself cleaned up for real.

Get off the drugs, pay back whoever it is you need to pay.

Is that gonna do it?

Yeah. Yeah, that'll do it.

You either clean yourself up... or you stay away from Eloise.

I am clean, Elliott.

This is just to pay some debts, some trouble that I got myself into.

Just stop, please, all right? Just stop. I can't take anymore.

Really, I can't take the bullshit.

You couldn't even be bothered to stay awake out there.

All right? You need to get honest with yourself, Reggie. All right?

You need... (PANTING)

(SLURRING) You need to get your act together.

(UNCORKS LIQUOR BOTTLE)

Turbo powered automobile

I'd really like to have a look what's under that hood

Black, red, white or yellow It doesn't matter what's its shade

I just like the way mama how you work that thing All right, Reggie, give it to me straight.

Because the judge is gonna look you in the eye and ask you for it even straighter.

How long you been clean?

A while now.

I... I been doing good, man.

I been up in Seattle.

Made a good group of friends, like I was telling you, Mama.

How you been taking care of yourself?

Ah, man, just doing odd jobs, you know?

Construction, shit like that.

I don't think it's a good idea to bring him into the mix.

The judge will only see him as a two-bit drug addict, not much more.

Jeremiah, I'm clean, man. I'm telling you, I'm clean now.

I don't believe you.

And if I don't believe you, the judge sure as hell won't believe you.

Jeremiah, you need to listen to me.

This isn't about him doing drugs.

He'll admit that he did 'em.

Hell, he'll take a damn drug test. He's already said that.

He's changed. And he just wants to be with his baby.

He doesn't want to be with his daughter, Rowena. That's the problem.

You do, he doesn't. That ain't completely true, Uncle J.

Yes, it is!

You're a goddamn cliché.

You're a perfect stereotype.

You don't even realize the damage you do.

Beyond the damage you've done to that little girl.

You corroborate everything the white community thinks.

You're a walking validation stamp on all their bullshit.

You are a father. Goddamn you, Reggie!

You're a little girl's father!

And there's some broken chromosome in that thick head of yours that won't allow you to connect to that!

I ain't like you, man, OK? Right!

I'm not you! You're right!

I'm not you! All right? Reg...

Reggie, wait! Don't go. I'm done!

Don't go! Jeremiah.

Now look, if you wanna win custody from Elliott, it won't help bringing him into this.

Now I say we go with my original brief, you petition for custody.

He is the father. He doesn't want the job!

Will you please tell her, Andrea?

Auntie, you need to listen to him.

Mm-mm! Mm-mm! He's right.

Don't give me that look. I'm not giving you a look.

I don't care how many law degrees you went and got, doesn't give you the right to give me that look.

There it is again. I mean it.

Now I'll get Daddy on the phone and he'll tell you what's what.

Giving me a look.

Oh, is that what you want?

You want a call coming in from your dad? You know what?

Let me just get him on the phone.

You know what, Rowena?

You're damn hard to take. Always have been.

And I have to say this, you're not getting any goddamn easier.

I was going to the water well one day for my mother.

It's a everyday activity. (CELL PHONE BEEPING)

So I was walking back to my village and I could hear something in the bushes and I turn around and a gazelle was headed in my direction.

I gotta take this. DUVAN: Of course, of course.

I started to... (LAUGHS)

Well, of course, I started to run very, very fast.

What's up?

RICK: They've refiled under a different chain.

What? It's Reggie's complaint now.

Filing for full parental custody.

No, how can that be? - Gets worse.

They submitted to the court a copy of a check Reggie cashed for $25,000 made out from you.

It's gonna play really badly if you were trying to bribe him to walk away from his daughter.

I think you better come in tomorrow.

We need to discuss this as a group.

It's about to go real bad, real fast.

All right, thanks.

(DOOR CLOSES) So I'm running very, very fast with having these three gazelles chasing me down.

Did not know what to do. Are you OK, Papa?

Yes, I am.

Duvan, I was thinking maybe... you could teach me a language.

Sure. Which language?

I don't know. You just pick.

Papa, are you being silly?

No. I think he is being very serious.

I think he needs to learn a new trick.

It wasn't a goddamn bribe, all right? He asked for the money.

I gave it to him in the hopes that he'd get his act together.

Whatever it was, it was a bad move. Mm-hm.

Yeah, puts us in a tough situation.

We need to think about how this is gonna play in court.

Play in court?

You got a young black kid who's cleaned up his act, he's got a sweet little mother and her little niece, and all the little cousins, and here comes Mr. Big...

Big ol' white guy with a checkbook, bossing everybody around.

That's the story they're gonna tell right there.

This isn't about black and white, all right?

This is about right and wrong, all right? He's a drug addict.

Look, we know that, Elliott.

And she's gonna know it before we're done.

You just, you gotta keep your cool.

This isn't gonna be one of those times where you can just bulldoze through everything, Elliott.

What did you just say to me? Hey, Elliott, hang on.

We're all on the same team here, guys.

He destroyed my daughter, Eldridge. He destroyed my little girl.

I'm not gonna let him do the same to my granddaughter.

We're gonna go in there and we're gonna remind this judge who Reggie Davis is.

We're gonna use his criminal record.

You're gonna need to bring it up every third sentence.

We're gonna make this guy wear it like a badge!

MAN: You start attacking this kid and the game is already over. Oh, for the love of God.

He's not a kid. Look, Elliott...

He's 30 years old.

Nobody is arguing with you here. It's just the world we're living in.

We're just not gonna get away with making it about him.

If it isn't about him, then it's gonna be about me.

(CELL PHONE BEEPS)

Eloise! ROSITA: Mr. Elliot, I am here.

Mr. Elliott, her father came.

He took her and he say he will bring her back by dinner.

But I didn't know what to do.

(VOICE CRACKS) It's OK.

(TIRES SCREECH)

(FAINT CHATTERING AND LAUGHTER) (FAINT MUSIC PLAYING)

(PLAYING UP-TEMPO SONG)


Hey!

What the hell are you doing?

Don't you ever come into my house again without my permission. You hear me?

And don't you come anywhere near that girl again anywhere, unless I have plenty of warning about it, you understand?

She's my daughter, man. Did you hear what I just said?

Yeah, yeah, I hear you.

Good.


What the hell was that about? I got no idea.

All right? I was up there having some laughs and the dude came out of nowhere and attacked me. All right?

I told you, he's a special kind of crazy.

You told me you had permission to go get her.

I got permission from the maid. The maid?

Mama, I just...

...I just wanted to be with her.

What the hell were you doing up there with them if you wanted to be with her?

Why aren't you over there with her, baby?

I don't know.

So sweet of him to bring Eloise over for a crack-smoking field trip.

But she has to get home now and do her homework.

There's no crack-smoking going on, Elliott.

Just beautiful music. Don't come here talking to me about crack-smoking.

Your son had no right to come in and take her from my house.

He told me you gave him permission.

Well, your little angel lied, all right?

I'm gonna file a motion with the court tomorrow and get a restraining order against him. He's a junkie.

My son is not a junkie. He's a crack junkie, Rowena.

He never got over his daddy dying. Oh, please.

He's overcome that now, but...

He's gonna shine, Elliott. Just wait and see.

He's gonna shine. He's gonna make us all proud.

Well, you must've been pretty proud when he paid you all back then, right?

What are you talking about, Elliott?

The $25,000 check that you're all worked up about.

You know, the bribe? That was for debts, Rowena.

How much of that did you see? How much did any of you see?

You live in a blind spot when it comes to your son.

Yeah? Why don't you just run on home and have yourself a drink?

Good idea. You know, I think I will.

My son is not a junkie! And you're a drunk!

OK, thank you! Just run on home, fill your bathtub with whiskey and just soak in it.

Have yourself an old drunk man's bubble bath!

ELLIOTT: Got it! Good!

ELOISE: Papa! What?

A plus!

Wow! An A plus. Look at that!

Someone's been doing their homework.

Someone's been doing their homework! (GIGGLES)

(WOMAN SPEAKING FRENCH) (ELLIOTT REPEATING FRENCH)

(BOTH CONTINUE SPEAKING FRENCH)

Too fast.

(KNOCKING ON DOOR)

Hey. Hey.

I was out walking by, saw the light on. What are you doing?

Um... Learning French. Why?

Well, it's either that or get drunk, I guess.

That's the most insane thing I've ever heard.

Yeah. Going to AA isn't easier than trying to learn that shit? Gotta be kidding. OK, all right.

Let me put some pants on, all right? Come on in.

Kristen! Where's your brother?

I told him I wanted to get to court early.

Give that judge a pretty picture to look at.

Here.

Reggie!

All right, brother.

Just having a cigarette, trying to get my head together.

You know, the truth is, Mama, I don't think I can handle this, all right?

Jeremiah just need to get it put off or something.

What are you talking about?

It's too much, all right?

I can't sit up there in front of a judge and a jury.

There's no goddamn jury, boy. Wake up!

You got to go in there and fight for your daughter.

Look, I can't do it! All right? I can't do it.

Now she need to just stay up there where she is.

Look, I wanna do it, Mama. I do.

I keep trying, but I can't.

All right? Jeremiah said it himself.

I'm not right that way. There's something missing.

(VOICE CRACKS) Shut your mouth!

Today is not the day for you to lose sight of what's real.

This is a little girl's life we're talking about.

She has a family.

She has a father.

And unless you let her know right now that she's worth fighting for, she'll never feel in her little heart that she's worth a damn.

You understand?

All of you.

You're all precious and perfect, and every one of you would be worth whatever the fight was to keep close.

We don't want anything else out of this cranky-ass old man, not one cent, not one concession, you hear me?

We just want our blood close. Your blood, Reggie.

Now she needs to be good with you.

She needs to be in your life, baby, making you whole.

That's why you're so sick.

That's why you're so broken.

I love you. OK?

Now pull yourself together.

Pull yourself together! You got a job to do.

Probably should've been doing that a lot more while you were growing up.

We wouldn't be in this situation.

Mr. Davis, when was the last time you saw your daughter?

About a month or two ago.

How did she seem to you at that time?

She seemed good.

A little lonely.

Kinda lost, maybe like she wanted to say more, but thought she couldn't.

Say more about what?

I guess about living with her granddaddy or something.

Uh, Your Honor? Your Honor, if I may?

Eloise has had nine sessions with the state's child therapist and the Jeffers' stipulated psychiatrist.

Not one of those reports came back that Eloise was a child who didn't feel safe enough to say what was on her mind on any subject.

Move along, Counselor.

RICK: Thank you.

JEREMIAH: Mr. Davis, just so the court has it straight, you do have a criminal record, is that correct?

Yes, sir, I do. (CLEARS THROAT)

Now you have been convicted of: robbery, drug possession, assault, drug possession with intent to sell. Did I leave anything out?

No, sir. That's... that's about it.

Mr. Davis, at one point, you were smoking crack every day.

Is that correct? Yeah. Yeah, pretty much.

And why do you think that was?

What do you think led you to taking all these drugs?

I think I...

I guess I just...

I don't know, man. I don't know.

Emotional pain. Emotional...

He was in pain, Your Honor.

He let his family down, he lost his way.

The drugs were a way for the boy to hide the pain of losing his daddy and letting his family down.

Ms. Jeffers?

You open your mouth like that again, you'll leave this room.

You may even have handcuffs on.

Counselor, I'm not kidding, not one bit.

As impossible as the task may be, you're gonna have to figure out a way to control her, OK? Go on.

JEREMIAH: How long have you been clean from drug use, Reggie?

REGGIE: About two years.

I've been up in Seattle, rebuilding my life.

Building a path back to my girl, to my family.

And you have a job now, is that correct?

Yeah. Yeah, I do. I work with my mother now.

She, uh, she has a real estate business.

She does some ad sales. Plus, she got a website business.

Actually, she's got like six businesses.

So, Reggie, at this time, do you feel that you are able to take over the care and guidance of your daughter?

No.

I mean... I mean, not yet, Your Honor.

I think if she lived with my mother, and I get some help from my sister and her wife across the street while I continue my rehabilitation, I can slowly grow into a relationship, be the daddy and all that, that I need to be.

Thank you, Reggie.

That's all for now, Your Honor.

Little man, come here.

One second, Your Honor, please?

Call for a lunch break.

He looks... like he needs some air. He looks a little fidgety.

We can't do that now. It's too early.

If we call for lunch, it'll just underline to the judge how hard all this is on him. He needs a break.

We can't do that. Call for a break.

Rowena, you are damn hard to take.

Your Honor, we were wondering if we could break early for lunch now before counsel takes its testimony from Mr. Davis?

Mr. Reynolds, any problem with that?

We want to cross now.

All right, I'm worried the judge is gonna see that as you being belligerent.

Now is not the time to go light on this guy.

I have a question I want him to answer.

RICK: He wants to go with this.

ELDRIDGE: No, Elliott, no.

No, not after lunch. Now. I want to ask him now.

Uh, Your Honor, seeing as how thorough Mr. Davis' lawyer has been, we only have a couple of questions.

So if we can just move ahead of schedule, we feel we can get to Mr. Anderson's testimony after lunch.

That's fine. Go ahead.

Mr. Davis, you have a tenth grade high school education.

You can read pretty good, is that right?

Yeah. Yeah, I read fine. I just... I don't have time and all, but...

RICK: And how is your spelling?

I'm OK with my spelling.

OK, so, how would you spell the name... Eloise?

JEREMIAH: Your Honor, please, this has nothing to do with why we're here.

I want to hear him spell it.

Go ahead, Mr. Davis, spell your daughter's name.

REGGIE: OK.

Um...

L... Right?

L-O-E-Z-E.

Eloise.

OK, Mr. Reynolds, anything else? No, Your Honor. Thank you.

That's lunch.

BAILIFF: All rise.

(LOW MURMURS)

RICK: How old are you, Mr. Araga? I am 19.

RICK: And you are Miss Anderson's tutor?

DUVAN: Yes, I tutor Eloise.

Basic mathematics, division, Algebra, introductory grammar skills.

And I understand you speak languages.

How many languages do you speak, Duvan?

Currently, uh, there are nine languages that I would call myself fluent in.

I have four others that I struggle through.

Your Honor, I have written a paper on language learning as a system of tension release for the North American Board of Mental Health Physicians.

OK.

Thank you.

So, Mr. Araga, when you tutor Eloise, where's her grandfather?

Is he in the other room? Oh, no. He is with us.

He is being tutored as well. RICK: He's right there with you.

Yes, I have a combination package on tutoring two people at once that I have worked out with Mr. Anderson.

So would you say that he is very involved in Eloise's studying?

Extremely involved.

Would you say more or less than the other parents whose children you work with? Oh...

I would say much, much more.

RICK: Thank you. That's all, Your Honor.

Mr. Araga, what other services do you provide for Mr. Anderson?

I tutor Eloise, piano lessons, and I am also sometimes his driver.

Oh. Why does he need a driver?

Sometimes, he will call me to come and drive for him and I do.

It is not on any of the lists that I have given you, because it is not a standard service that I offer.

What condition is he in when you are required to drive for him?

I suppose maybe he is tired or... has a lot on his mind?

Does Mr. Anderson have a drinking problem?

(SCOFFS) I am not an expert on alcohol or substance abuse detection or even addiction control issues.

It is not something that I have gotten into as a field of study for either work or recreation.

Obviously not. You haven't written a paper on it.

(ALL CHUCKLING)

Mr. Araga, have you ever seen Mr. Anderson intoxicated?

Mr. Araga?

(SIGHS)

Yes, I have.

Have you ever seen him intoxicated in front of his granddaughter?

He is currently learning French as an alternative activity...

Mr. Araga, have you ever seen Mr. Anderson intoxicated in front of Eloise?

Yes or no?

Yes. More than once?

Yes. Thank you, Mr. Araga.

Your Honor, no further questions.

RICK: All right, now Jeremiah's gonna come after you.

He's gonna do his best to try to pick you apart, piece by piece, so...

Really?

Just, please, when you're on the stand, your number one job is just to not lose your cool.

Just stop, all right? Don't talk to me like I'm a two-year-old, OK?

You know...

...I talked to my brother-in-law about your drinking.

He asked me how long you've been drinking like this.

I was like, "I don't know, last couple years or so."

You know, kind of since your daughter, uh...

And you know, how it got more serious once Carol passed.

And you know what he said to me? No, what'd he say?

He said, "Maybe this guy's not an alcoholic.

This guy, maybe he's just one seriously angry motherfucker.

Maybe he's just hopped up on anger."

Well, if you are? If that is your drug of choice, Elliott, I'm telling you, today is not the day to go off on a bender.

OK?

RICK: And when was the first time you met Reginald Davis Jr.?

ELLIOTT: A couple of years after Eloise was born.

After we lost Jill, he came over one day, wanted to talk to me alone.

What did he want? He wanted some money.

That's what it usually is with Reggie.

And for what purpose did he think you were going to give him the money?

I assume he wanted it in exchange for not contesting custody of the baby.

Your Honor, that's wildly speculative. I agree.

RICK: Did he meet Eloise that day? No, I wouldn't let him in.

He was a mess. I told him to come back after he'd cleaned himself up.

Did he come back? A few weeks later, yeah.

RICK: And had he cleaned up?

More or less. He showed up... He showed up with Rowena.

RICK: His mother. Yes.

She basically dragged him there with his ear in between two of her fingers.

(ALL CHUCKLING)

RICK: And how much time did they spend with Eloise that day?

Hour or so.

Just long enough for Reggie to steal a watch.

How do you know he stole a watch? Isn't that "wildly speculative"?

No, his mother brought him back with it the next day.

Made him return it to me.

RICK: When was the next time you saw him?

Six months or so later, he came over in the middle of the night.

About three a.m., wanted to take the baby, said she was his.

Wanted her right then and there.

How would you describe his condition that night?

He was agitated.

High. Stoned on something.

RICK: And of course, you wouldn't give him your granddaughter.

ELLIOTT: No, of course not. How did he handle that?

He attacked me.

Pulled a knife on me.

RICK: How did that end up?

I managed to cool him down. Carol called the police. He ran.

She called the police. So there's a police report?

Yes.

Did you press charges? No.

RICK: Were there any more instances like that again?

Yeah, a couple.

He has a tendency to get violent for no reason when he's on drugs.

RICK: How often did you see his mother?

We'd see her a bit.

She and Carol worked out some form of a relationship.

We were fine with her.

Why is it you didn't meet Mr. Davis until the baby was two years old, if your daughter had been dating him?

I don't think he actually dated her.

The term I'd use is... abused.

Mr. Anderson, don't confuse your answer with an opinion. It's not...

She was only 17 years old, Your Honor. He was 23.

We could very easily be using a whole different term to describe that relationship, but we didn't press charges there either.

She was a goddamn baby.

Mr. Anderson, how often have you been to work since your wife passed away?

Not a lot.

I'm taking some time off.

JEREMIAH: You've taken an emotional leave?

Needed time to heal?

If you did, that would make sense.

ELLIOTT: The reason I haven't been working is Eloise.

JEREMIAH: So you think it's better for you to be at home, help her with her studies.

I do.

And luckily, you're in a financial position to be able to maintain the lifestyle that you and Eloise enjoy?

Yes.

You're also in a financial position that if need be, you can do this permanently?

No?

So eventually, you'll be back to work full-time.

(WHISPERS) Yeah.

Your Honor, will you please instruct the witness to answer these questions with yes's and no's? We do have a transcript.

Is that a yes or a no, Mr. Anderson?

Yes, eventually, I will have to go back to work. Yes.

So all of this, all of the tutoring, all of the full-time parenting, as good as it is, someday soon...

...things will be a lot different for Eloise, right?

You won't be able to devote to her the energy that you have been, is that right?

Please answer the question, Mr. Anderson.

I'd love to, Your Honor, but if he's gonna continue to do it for me, I might as well just sit down. CUMMINS: OK, OK, OK. OK.

This does not need to be that difficult.

Counsel, you may want to rephrase the question, and Mr. Anderson, you need to try not to be so sensitive. All right?

Can he go on? Yes, he can go on.

OK.

Mr. Anderson, I'd like to submit to you and the court that Reggie isn't gonna win the Father of the Year Award anytime soon.

I don't think so, either. JEREMIAH: But he is Eloise's father.

I've read the reports from her sessions she had, and I know you did as well.

This is a girl who hungers for a relationship with her father.

Do you agree? I do. Especially now, since she's lost her grandmother. (CLEARS THROAT)

One of her grandmothers.

Yes. One of her grandmothers.

Mr. Anderson, how different would you feel about Reggie's failings...

...if he were white?

OK, here we go.

(DRY CHUCKLE) Not one damn bit.

All right? This isn't about anything even close to that.

I think you'd know better.

Elliott, did you refer to Reggie... as a "street nigger"?

Yes, I did, once. I was heated, but... yes, I did.

It was a mistake. I wish I hadn't done that, said that.

You were heated, but you did use the term.

I just said I did.

It's an ugly word, and I'm ashamed that I used it.

I know it's hurtful and I shouldn't have, but...

...it's the word he used.

It's how he referred to himself in all his texts on her phone that I found, my daughter's phone.

"Your street nigger's here, baby. Come on out."

"Your street nigger," that kind of thing, Your Honor.

I know it doesn't make it right, but it was just in there, lodged up here and it came out.

In reality, though, isn't that how you see him?

A little drugged-out street nigger?

Isn't that exactly to a tee how you see Reggie?

Mr. Anderson...

...do you dislike black people?

Not all of them.

Do you have a problem with racial prejudice?

Is that what you want to make this about, Jeremiah? Really?

Well, let's do it then.

You've wanted to ever since Rowena first dragged you into this.

So yes, we're different, you and I. You want to submit that? Submit it.

We have different skin color.

Is that the first thing I notice when I see a black man, the color of his skin?

Yes. Submit away.

Because I can go ahead and submit that it's the first thing you see when you see a white guy. Now I don't know why that is any more than I know why when I see a good-looking woman, the first thing I notice are her breasts. Because I do.

But if I move onto my next thought quick enough, I'm not a pervert, all right? I'm not a... I'm not a bad guy.

I'm just... I'm just mildly flawed.

It's the same thing with race. It's not my first thought that counts, it's my second, third and fourth thought.

And each and every case I'm in, it comes down to the same thing: the action and interaction I'm having with the person that I'm interacting with.

The interaction I've had with Reggie, in case you haven't noticed, hasn't been all that great.

And I don't need a math tutor to know that it doesn't make me a racist just because he's a crack addict.

That column doesn't add up. It just simply totals him out as a...

...a drug-addled criminal, a liar and a...

...a thief with no moral compass.

He may be able to play you, fool his mother, may be even able to get one over here on Judge Cummins.

But he can't fool me, because I see him for exactly what he is.

And to this day, he's never once apologized or shown one bit of remorse to me or my wife for the death of our daughter.

All right?

His mother wants to mollycoddle him, fine.

The whole world wants to treat him like a wounded, put-upon child, then do it.

I don't really care.

I just don't want him infecting Eloise.

So, no, Jeremiah, I'm not racially prejudiced, I just don't happen to want your little nephew's broken-down black ass anywhere near my granddaughter. What's your next question?

I don't think I have one.

I don't think that went as bad as you think it did.

She'll make a ruling in a few days. Who knows, she may even surprise us.

I couldn't have been a worse witness if I tried.

No way in hell she's not gonna take Eloise away from me.

Not a shot in hell.

Ah, come on, you were great.

Not a lot of the other Klan members could be that articulate.

ELLIOTT: Time to turn the lights out, Puppy.

Want to see my new drawing?

That's you, me and Daddy.

You're very talented.

Now lay down.

Did we do good in court today? We did OK.

Did you tell the lady judge that I only want to live with you?

That I love Wee Wee and them, but this is where I am?

Yes, I told her. Did she hear you?

I think she did. Good.


Son of a bitch.

You better get your ass out of here right now, Reggie.

Give me money. A lot of money. Fifty.

You make it 50 and I'll go away for good this time.

You need to leave right now.

You give me the money and I'll just go away.

You hear me? You need to leave now! Give me the money!

Or I'll take my daughter right now. Hell you will.

(ELLIOTT GRUNTS) (REGGIE PANTING)

Get out of here!

You don't ever come over here like this again! You hear me?

Never, ever!

(DOG BARKING IN DISTANCE)


(PANTING)

(DOG BARKING)

All you're ever gonna do is hate on me.

I know that.

I ain't gonna never be nothing but a street nigger to you. Never.

(CRIES OUT)

(BOTH GRUNTING)

(KNIFE CLATTERS TO GROUND)

(GRUNTS) (PLANTER CLATTERS)

(PANTING)

(GROANS)

Oh... (BODY THUDS)

(PANTING)

(CHAIR CLATTERS)

(MUFFLED SOB)


(GASPING)


Elliott! Elliott!

(PANTING) Elliott!

(REGGIE BREATHING RAPIDLY)

(ELLIOTT GAGS) (REGGIE GASPS)

(GRUNTING)

(BOTH PANTING)

I'm so sorry, Elliott.

I'm sorry about you losing your little girl.

God, I'm so sorry.

(SOBS) I'm so sorry.

I'm so sorry.


OK, so, as you know, I was ready to issue a custody ruling in this case, but I understand that both sides would like to address the court with some additional information. So, uh, let's first hear from Mr. Davis.

REGGIE: Your Honor, I just want to say that, um, the things that Mr. Anderson said about me last week, they were hard to hear, but they were true.

I ain't fit just yet to be a father.

I ain't no good to be around my girl.

I need to go away, or something. Get some air. Learn how to breathe.

Figure out how to just...

...how to live like somebody worth having a little girl lives like.

I don't want the custody.

That's the real truth.

Well... that is an interesting turn.

So, um, Mr. Anderson, I understand that you have something I need to know as well, something about an incident at your house?

No, Your Honor, there's nothing I need to...

...nothing I need to say at this point.

OK, so, Counselor, are you now back to asking me to give custody to your sister, is that where we're going?

Yes, Your Honor, we'd like to revert back to our original brief, asking that Rowena Jeffers be given full custody of the child.

CUMMINS: OK. Now... No.

Your Honor, that's not what we want.

(JEREMIAH MUTTERS)

I know I'm not supposed to just stand up and blurt things out in here and I really don't want to go to jail today, but...

...I need to say that I was wrong about Eloise's grandfather.

I need to say that right now.

I believe he has her best interest at heart.

You do? I mean, he's got himself a cranky side and he drinks too much, which he needs to work on that, pronto.

But I do trust him with my granddaughter.

I'm not going to jail for saying any of this, am I?

Not today. So you want to sit? Yeah. There you go. Thank you.

OK, now this is all very interesting.

So Mr. Davis, are you sure that this is what you want?

To give sole custody to Mr. Anderson?

Because this will not be easy to rescind once it's...

That's fine, Your Honor, that's fine. We trust Elliott.

You won't have to rescind anything.

Reggie understands that, don't you, Reggie? I mean, it's all good.

It's all good. OK. Thank you.

I would... like him to stop with the drinking, though.

OK, you know what, Your Honor? I do need to quit drinking.

All right? I got it. But it's...

And it's not easy, so please tell her to...

Tell her to mind her own business. Please?

Y'all done?

I am.

I'm ready to sit back down, Your Honor.

Jesus.

All right, Mr. Anderson, you now have full custody of your granddaughter, Eloise Anderson, in accordance with California Family Code, Section 3040, paragraph three. And for your granddaughter's sake...

(ALL CHATTERING, LAUGHING)

ALL: Hey, Eloise!

Just for a while. You promised. Right? Yes.

A couple of weeks.

I just need to get some air, Puppy. It won't be long.

Papa just...

Papa just needs to relearn how to breathe.

Work on some things.

You understand that, right? Yes.

Duvan is gonna come and take you to school every day, OK?

He's gonna help you keep up with your studies. All right? Good.

That's a pretty good-looking bow you have up there. Wonder who tied it.

You did.

That's right.

Hey, you. Come here. Mm-mm.

Wee Wee's got some love for you.

Come on, come on.

(ALL CHEERING)


ELLIOTT: You about done?

(STAMMERS) Uh, yes. Yes, I'm done.

(♪ JASON MRAZ: "A BEAUTIFUL MESS")


You've got the best of both worlds

You're the kind of girl

Who can take down a man

And lift him back up again

You are strong but you're needy

Humble but you're greedy

And based on your body language

And shoddy cursive I've been reading

Your style is quite selective

Though your mind is rather reckless

Well I guess it just suggests

That this is just what happiness is

And what a beautiful mess

This is

It's like picking up trash

In dresses

Well it kind of hurts

When the kind of words you say

Kind of turn

Themselves into blades

And "kind and courteous"

Is a life I've heard

But it's nice to say

That we played in the dirt

Oh dear

'Cause here we are

Here we are

Here we are Here we are

Here we are

Here we are

Here we are

We're still here

What a beautiful mess

This is

It's like

Taking a guess

When the only answer is yes

And through timeless words

And priceless pictures

We'll fly like birds

Not of this earth

And tides they turn

And hearts disfigure

But that's no concern

When we're wounded together

And we tore our dresses

And stained our shirts

But it's nice today

Oh, the wait

Was so worth it


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