The Landlord: Gentrification

The Landlord is a very interesting, strange, and captivating movie that addresses multiple issues simultaneously. It addresses racial issues, interracial relationships, the lifestyles of poverty, and the concept of gentrification. Gentrification can be interpreted as being “the movement of middle class families into urban areas causing property values to increase and having the secondary effect of driving out poorer families.” In this case, although the first part of the definition was attempted, we see that the second part took reign.

Elgar, an enthusiastic and dedicated young man that embodies the spirit of gentrification, sets out to invest in real estate in the ghetto of Park Slope in order to remodel a house, primarily for his own benefit. The neighborhood he comes into is vandalized, filthy, full of crime, and full of people who are not too pleased to see a white man coming into their neighborhood and trying to change the way things are. He’s faced with all sorts of obstacles and characters, such as Marge; a woman that threatens to shoot him with her gun when he steps into the building, little kids that mess around with his car, and Walter G; a little boy that basically blackmails Elgar into giving him money and driving him home. Nevertheless, he continues to work on his gentrification process with the needs of the tenants in mind. He asks the tenants if they have any complaints, installs a new bell system, new plumbing, and other fixtures that help to better the building. He stands up to his family and defends his project as well as the “colored people” that live there. In fact, this is shown in one of my favorite lines when Elgar asks his parents if they know what NAACP stands for and says “Niggers Ain’t Always Colored People”, basically calling his parents niggers. We see Elgar slowly identifying himself with this culture and neighborhood and the consequences of such identification start to become more and more apparent as the movie progresses.

Elgar’s attempted integration and his rather foolish decisions lead to a big change in the neighborhood, and it is far from being for the better. Elgar’s love interest in Laney, his affair with Francine, and his many personal changes set the tone for the rest of the movie. Laney is a major tool (excuse my choice in words) in his integration process. Laney, being biracial, causes a riot when he introduces her to his parents. His father argues against this “business venture” and insults Elgar for being too afraid to collect rent money. As Elgar is trying to prove his father wrong, he finds out that his place was robbed. It seems as though Elgar would give up at this point but with the help of Laney, he manages to remodel the place (paint job, posters, curtains…) and change his identity (clothes, house, attitude…) Now we come to a turning point in the movie when his mother, who was once somewhat supportive of his project, orders him to stop. He replies, as he is trying to throw her out of the building, that he is 29 years old and has finally run away from home. *And in comes Francine* Francine brings devastating news: Her and Elgar’s one night stand resulted in her pregnancy. After this news everything starts spiraling downwards.Elgar gets attacked by Francine’s husband when he found out and her husband goes to the psychiatric hospital.While he is away, Elgar takes care of Francine until the delivery. Soon enough the baby comes and Francine refuses to take care of it. They agree that adoption is an option but Elgar decides to take the baby to Laney and they care for it together. So in the end we are left with an unsuccessful project, a husband-less wife, new challenging circumstances for Elgar and Laney, and worst of all — a rather negative view of gentrification.

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