Monster’s Ball

Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs

Director: Marc Forster

So this is what all the tears were about! Halle Berry blubbing her eyes out as she collected her Oscar, dedicating the award to all those women of colour out there who have suffered – and how she dedicated her achievement to all of them. MONSTER’S BALL in which Berry plays Leticia the wife of a man waiting on death row (Sean Combs), tells the tale of women living on the bread line in what’s still fondly known in cinema-land as the deep south. Despite the feminist and civil rights movements plus an economic boom, life is hard for women like Leticia – a single mother struggling from McJob to job while living in a kind of limbo as her former husband sits on death row awaiting his final sentence.

Leticia’s life coincidentally collides with Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) who like his father (Peter Boyle) before him, and his son (Heath Ledger) after him, work as guards at the State Penitentiary where Leticia’s husband is incarcerated. Despite absorbing some of his father’s racist and misogynist attitudes, Hank shows respect for his work and his responsibilities towards some of the criminals in his stewardship. There is, it seems to Hank a certain dignity in the ceremony of state-controlled murder and the men on death row are permitted to celebrate a ‘monster’s ball’ – a final phone call and last supper before they are led to the electric chair. On a personal level, Hank has his own demons, and the tension in his family comes to a head leading to an event which forces him to reconsider his life. Hank is another mean, moody and complicated psyche which B B Thornton plays so well.

The film is essentially a love story, and as the characters come together it’s surprisingly touching though the feeling of impending doom never quite fades away. Billy Bob Thornton, as always is truly excellent, and Halle Berry also, though her flawless, Revlon-girl, good looks seem somewhat unlikely in the wicked world of the trailer park. MONSTER’S BALL seems to pick up where DEAD MAN WALKING left off.

4 out of 6 stars

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