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Plot: After a family tragedy, a racist prison guard reexamines his attitudes while falling in love with the African American wife of the last prisoner he executed. Runtime: 111 mins Release Date: 01 Mar 2002
A harrowing, daring film. One of the year's best. **** out of four (by Movie-12)
MONSTER'S BALL / 2001 **** out of four When I finish reading a great book, I don't close it right away. Treasuring the story's emotional grasp, I just sit there and hold it for a minute, enthralled, sensing the character's lives are continuing even as I put the book away. "Monster's Ball" is a similar experience. The film contains so much truth, vigor, and so many harrowing moments, I just stared at the screen through the ending credits. Even after a second viewing the conviction did not diminish. It really says something about a movie when you know what <more>
happens and you're equally as mesmerized every time you watch it. Most movies about depravity are really about entertainment, but director Marc Forster avoids preachy speeches, big sappy moments, and melodramatic music. Even during the movie's most important scenes, Forster does not overplay the material. He knows that careful, quiet dialogue, and long, silent pauses speak louder than lengthy emotional summaries.Consider a scene where a character checks his father into an old folk's home. It does not feature long good-byes or conclusive hugs. Instead, it projects unflinching, raw emotion. "You must love him very much," reassures an attendant to the character who replies, "No I don't, but he is my father "The character, Hank, is played by Billy Bob Thornton, who makes his Academy Award-winning performance in "Sling Blade" look like SNL material. Hank, bitter and racist, lives in a Southern country house with his son, Sonny Heath Ledger , and father Peter Boyle . Hank and Sonny work as prison guards on death row. Sonny desperately wants out of the family business, especially after an unpleasant emotional reaction to the latest execution. When Hank explodes at him for his mistake, Sonny teaches his father a lesson he will never forget. The film eventually becomes a story about the relationship between Hank and the widow of the man he has just executed. She's played by Halle Barry, who was paid an extra one-million dollars for doing an extended sex scene completely nude. This is a gradual, yet sudden relationship that is not based on physical attraction or love, but emotional need and depravity. Forster makes interesting editing choices. During certain scenes, he cuts back and forth between separate occurrences while the central action fills the soundtrack. Especially unique is how he handles a sex scene. While two characters engage in some of the most graphic stimulated sex of last year, Forster flashes images of a caged bird before us. A metaphor of shattered innocence or repressed emotion, perhaps?Actually, Forster fills "Monster's Ball" with metaphors, including the title itself. He even includes a moving soundtrack of timid rhythms and sudden beats, symbolizing the characters complex states of mind. Forster's haunting, daring feature reminds us why we all love the movies.
Extraordinary Performances by Berry and Thornton (by jhclues)
It's very rare, but occasionally a film comes along that plays out so realistically that it doesn't even seem like you're watching a movie, but participating-- albeit as an observer-- in this particular drama of life that is unfolding around you. And so it is with `Monster's Ball,' a riveting film, directed by Marc Forster, that is so real it transcends entertainment and becomes a voyeuristic experience that leaves you with the sense that you've been through everything that's happened yourself. It's a thought provoking examination of relationships and <more>
perspectives, including the ingrained, subjective attitudes-- especially prejudices-- that have such a profound and lasting affect on our lives, as well as the lives of those around us. It's a film that says so much about the way we respond to one another, as well as certain situations, and why; in short, it's about the world that we, as a society, have created and must live in together-- right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. And at the heart of the story is a message that rings through loud and true; a perception that we can do better-- and must-- if we are to survive as a civilized, dignified and progressive species. In the final analysis, we are, all of us, members of the family of Man; and it's time we realize and acknowledge it. After eleven years on death row at a Georgia State Penitentiary, Lawrence Musgrove Sean Combs is out of appeals and is headed for the electric chair. There to make their final visit is Musgrove's wife, Leticia Halle Berry , and their son, Tyrell Coronji Calhoun , while veteran corrections officer Hank Grotowski Billy Bob Thornton oversees the proceedings. Also on hand is third-generation corrections officer Sonny Grotowski Heath Ledger , who during Musgrove's final walk discovers he doesn't have the stomach required to perform his duties, which will later create some conflict with his father. Bigotry, it seems, is something of a family trait; Hank's father, Buck Peter Boyle , a retired corrections officer, is the product of a time when African Americans `knew their place.' But it's an attitude that's apparently become somewhat watered down in his family from one generation to the next. Hank seems almost indifferent, even apathetic, when it comes to race, though under stress, especially, he defers to his father's views. Sonny, however, has a mind of his own, and by nature is more willing to embrace all of the myriad and diverse aspects of life as he sees it. And with the three generations of Grotowski men living under one roof, needless to say, there is more than some tension in the household, which inevitably leads to tragedy. Leticia, meanwhile, is riding a downward spiral in her own life, attempting to cope with both her husband's situation and a problem with her son, while having to make a living on top of it all. And just when it seems that her world is about to fall into total collapse, circumstances bring her into contact with-- of all people-- Hank Grotowski. Call it fate, or just one of those things; but it becomes a turning point, not only in their lives, but in the lives of a number of people close to them. And very soon, for Hank and Leticia, especially, the world becomes a very different place. Working from a screenplay by Milo Addica and Will Rokos that is intelligent, incisive and uncompromising, Forster delivers an emotionally absorbing drama that is raw, insightful and presented with a subtle intensity that is so thoroughly engrossing it becomes mesmerizing. It's a film that does not allow the viewer the luxury of casual observation or an indifferent attitude; the story is told in terms that are so brutally honest and starkly realistic that it does not provide for neutral ground or ambiguity on the part of it's audience. This is powerful drama, and Forster makes sure that everyone watching has the sense of actually being included as the story unfolds. He makes you a part of this world in which Hank, Leticia and the others live-- there's no standing on the sidelines with this one. As in real life, with this film you are confronted with situations that demand resolution and force you to make decisions. It takes a number of elements to make a truly great film, of course, and in this one they all come together beautifully-- especially in the performances, beginning with Billy Bob Thornton, who is without question one of the best leading men/character actors in the business. He's a true chameleon who never ceases to amaze with his versatility and his ability to create believable, interesting and memorable characters, from Karl arguably his most memorable in `Sling Blade,' to Jacob in `A Simple Plan,' or Russell in `Pushing Tin' to Hank in this film, whom he captures with absolutely incredible subtlety and depth. It's a terrific performance, delivered with nuance and restraint, and it should have earned him an Oscar nomination, as it was clearly one of the best performances of the year. What really takes this film to a higher level, though, is the extraordinary performance by Halle Berry as Leticia, in whom she creates a finely layered, three-dimensional character that is singularly effective and entirely believable and real. In Leticia, you will find every conceivable emotion woven around conflicts born of the definitive complexities of life, the things we all experience in one way or another at one time or another, and to which everyone will be able to relate on some level, according to personal experience. In this performance, Berry does it all and gives her all, and it's work for which she deservedly was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress. When you come away from this film, it's with the indelible images of Leticia and Hank burned into your memory, thanks to the talents of Berry, Thornton and Forster. `Monster's Ball' is compelling, unforgettable drama, and an example of filmmaking at it's best. 10/10.
Excellent Acting Fills Out Taut Small Town Story (by noralee)
"Monster's Ball" is the fourth of the 2001 movies for grown-ups about adults dealing with death. Here the main characters find redemption through personal relationships and provide hope.While some in the audience complained it was too slow, the original script by Milo Addica and Will Rokos feels like an expansion of a short story, as the outlines of the plot are fairly simple and not all the back story is explained, and riddled with coincidences barely made feasible by taking place in a small town. Director Marc Forster finds a way to visually communicate the difference between <more>
sex and intimacy.But the actors fill the spaces of inarticulate characters with complex performances, not just award-winning Halle Berry a long way from "X Men" . Billy Bob Thornton starts out slightly less laconic than in "The Man Who Wasn't There" but very gradually finds the ability and a reason to smile. Less attention has been paid to the excellence in smaller roles by Heath Ledger yes hunky Heath and Peter Boyle. Country music is used in the background only when the radio is on; it's a nice local station they got there that plays Jimmie Dale Gilmore. originally written 2/17/2002
Independent filmmaking is alive and well and evident in Monster's Ball. This film had a minuscule $4 million budget, a terrific script and a director not afraid to take some risks. Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry practically donated their time they were paid so little. The result is a powerful and disturbing film that walked off with a boatload of awards, not the least of which was a best actress Oscar for Berry.Director Marc Forster conjures a forceful presentation with stark sets, next to nothing in the way of props and other set decoration, and a non existent soundtrack. Forster <more>
does it with innovative use of the camera, sharp editing and most importantly excellent actor direction. Forster could have done better at character development and the ending is nebulous and unsatisfying, but these shortcomings can be partially forgiven for the films many assets.This is an actors' showcase, with outstanding performances all around. Heath Ledger makes a short but intense appearance as the son that Hank Billy Bob Thornton despises. Ledger pumps the character full of repressed anger and disappointment, simultaneously resenting him and seeking his father's approval. Peter Boyle is despicable as Hank's bigoted and self centered father. Billy Bob Thornton delivers his best performance since `Sling Blade' with a complex character torn between his prejudices and his attraction to Leticia Halle Berry .Of course the big story here is Halle Berry. Berry shows once again that she is not just another pretty face. I first took serious notice of her after seeing her performance in `Introducing Dorothy Dandridge', a little seen TV movie in which she won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy. After that marvelous dramatic performance, I was surprised that she couldn't land roles any better than `Swordfish' and `X-Men', which tapped nothing more substantial than her looks. In this film, Berry is sexy and alluring, but these are only incidental attributes. She displays a full range of emotions from vibrant elation and unbridled passion, to utter despondency. She practically rips her heart out and throws it at the camera. She can convey volumes with a single look, or come completely unglued with equal impact. Her Oscar for this performance was richly deserved and had nothing to do with her race as so many have rationalized. She just flat out won it going away. As good as Nicole Kidman was in `Moulin Rouge', it wasn't even close.This is an excellent film that is worth seeing for the acting alone. I rated it a 9/10. It is a compelling and deeply disturbing drama that serious film lovers will surely enjoy.
"Monster's Ball" tells of a white man and a black woman in the rural South coming together through desperate human need; each suffering grief, guilt, remorse, and misery. A slow, plodding drama with rumbling racial undercurrents, the film tells a simple story, though not uneventful, with finely nuanced performances, especially by Berry who earned her keep and kudos. Recommended for mature audiences into serious drama.
Outstanding Performances! (by bsmith5552)
"Monster's Ball" is presented by Director Marc Forster as a dark, dreary film-noir like drama involving the role of fate in bringing together two different but distraught people from different races.The film opens as preparations are underway for the execution of Lawrence Musgrave Sean Combs . Two of the prison guards are Hank Billy Bob Thornton and his son Sonny Heath Ledger . Musgrave's wife Leticia Halle Berry and his obese son Tyrell Coronji Calhoun have come to see Musgrave to say their final goodbyes. Hank and Sonny live with the bigoted Buck who is Hank's <more>
father and who was also a prison guard. We learn that Buck has apparently bullied Hank all his life and now Hank is doing likewise to Sonny.Following the execution, two tragic but unrelated events occur in the lives of Hank and Leticia. Hank, fighting off the predjudices taught him by his father, begins to fall for Leticia and eventually an inter-racial relationship ensues. But what if she finds out that Hank had a part in executing her husband?Berry deservedly won the 2001 Academy Award as best actress for her role as the tragic Leticia. She displays a wide range of emotions from pity to sadness to dispare to ecstacy to happiness. Thornton is equally good as the similarly tragic Hank who goes through much of the same emotional changes. Peter Boyle is also excellent as the bigoted Buck. Ledger, in an all too brief role, shines as the son who really doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps. Calhoun evokes pity and sorrow as Leticia's son and the old Puffmeister, Combs gives a good low key performance as the doomed convict.An excellent film but be forewarned that there are a couple of graphic sex scenes in the movie. Definitely not for the kiddies.
Excellent job of peeling away the layers of racism (by dfranzen70)
Hank Grotowski Billy Bob Thornton is the middle generation of three generations of prison guards. His father Buck Peter Boyle is long retired and a near-invalid, using a walker and leaning on an iron lung. His son Sonny Heath Ledger is a novice guard. Hank and Sonny work together on Death Row and are among the guards responsible for the executions Hank's in charge .The first thing that strikes one about this particular group of men is the level of racism that's apparent in each one. Buck's the worst - he screams at young black kids who happen to wander onto "his" <more>
property all three Grotowskis live together and is liable to spout off some hateful rhetoric at any time. Hank's not a lot better, but his feelings seem tempered in contrast to Buck; he seems more weary than angry. And Sonny is actually friends with that same neighboring black family whose kids come over every now and then.Thus the line of racism is significantly watered down as the generations progress. This is not to suggest that Sonny is an angel, or that Buck is the absolute devil. Sonny and Hank share the same hooker though not at the same time ; all three men drink, smoke, and cuss like sailors. In short, they're simply not nice folk.While Hank and Sonny are transporting a prisoner to the electric chair, Sonny takes ill and can't continue. Because of this, the prisoner who had bonded a little with the compassionate Sonny earlier suffers a little during his execution. Enraged, Hank attacks his son in the locker room after the execution, and the other guards have to separate them.That's one relationship being examined - that of Hank and Sonny. The other is the more important one, however. The widow of the executed prisoner, Leticia Musgrove Halle Berry , is trying to make ends meet as a waitress. But her car constantly dies on her, and after being late to work repeatedly, she's fired - shortly after her husband is executed. She has one overeating kid to feed, too. She does get another job as a waitress, but has to ditch the car when it dies a final time. Walking home in the rain, her son who has to come with her; can't leave him home to binge his hit by a car. Hank happens to be passing by, and with some reluctance remember, he is racist, if not as bad as his father , he stops to help. There's a wonderful dichotomy between the relationship between Leticia and her son and that between Hank and his son. Milo Addica and Will Rokos, who wrote the screenplay, weave a very effective tale that manages to keep all of the characters interesting and relevant. What makes Hank act the way he does? What are Leticia's motivations? And it would be very easy for the actors to portray the characters as nothing more than stereotypes - Hank the nasty, racist white male, and Leticia the vulnerable, victimized African American woman. But both Thornton and Berry rise above their characters' limitations - Hank's not the devil he might think he is, and Leticia isn't the angel that a lesser actress might make her out to be.It's also worth mentioning that each of the two leads has something shocking and powerful happen to them near the beginning of the film, before they really meet. These two events have a huge impact on the characters - you might call the events "life-altering". The events allow us to see actual change in the character. Not sudden change, which can be jarring and unrealistic, but gradual, authentic, eminently believable change.The performances by the leads are nothing short of sensational. Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress for her work here. Yes, you read right - Halle Berry. She of The Flintstones, Swordfish, and being married to David Justice fame. See, this is what happens when you give a good actress a great role. The best actresses will rise to the level of the role; the mediocre actresses will sink below it, collapsing under its weight.Thornton has a tendency to pick offbeat, idiosyncratic roles, albeit usually with a Southern twist. His Hank is not a carbon copy of your stereotypical Dirty White Boy; he's a multilayered character with charm and evil mixed in. The film doesn't make him out to be a complete hero; just a flawed one. By the movie's end, he has come to grips a little with his failures and his shortcomings.Berry and Thornton have a great supporting cast in Boyle and Ledger. When you think of a hateful, misanthropic, misogynistic demon, you don't think of Peter Boyle, who's turning in great comedic work on the TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond". But after this movie, you sure do. Great job. And Ledger - well, I know him best from The Patriot, as Mel Gibson's oldest son. In that movie, he was tough, but he was still a boy in a world of adults. That boy's grown up, and Ledger proves his mettle as an actor in this role.There will be some who find this movie too slow; granted, if you're looking for action, this won't appeal to you. But it's an excellent story, and not as simplistic as it may seem on the outside. It's very well written meaning that there are few plot holes , and ably directed. You may be fascinated, as I was, with the character development from beginning to end. Things are not - pardon the expression - treated as black-and-white issues; there are varying grays that are resolved and not resolved by movie's end.
A very compelling and sincere movie (by philip_vanderveken)
Monster's Ball wasn't made with a big budget by some very well known director. And to make things "worse", it's controversial as well because the story isn't exactly about a family living together happy with more money than there is water in the sea. And they weren't afraid to put a lot of racism in it, which was necessary to make this movie believable, but for some "politically correct" people, already reasons enough to say they didn't like it.The movie tells us the story of Hank Grotowski Billy Bob Thornton , a racist white prison guard who works <more>
on Death Row and Leticia Musgrove Halle Berry , a black woman whose husband is about to be executed. Hank lives with his father and his son, who he really hates, under the same roof. But when a tragedy takes his son away, he starts thinking about his ideas. In the mean while he has met Leticia, not knowing who she really is and soon they fall in love with each other. This is the start of a relationship based rather on desperation than on love.Monster's ball doesn't use cheap Hollywood sentiment like you might expect from this kind of movies, but is sincere and very compelling. This is of course also thanks to excellent performances. Halle Berry got an Oscar for it, but what I don't understand is why Billy Bob Thornton wasn't even nominated. His character may not be as likable and no he isn't as good looking as Berry, but his performance certainly wasn't any less. In fact, the entire movie was more than just worth a watch. It's very nice to see that there still are unknown directors who can make good movies with a good story, some fine actors and a small budget. I really enjoyed it and that's why I give it an 8/10.
You can think long and hard about what Monsters Ball is all about.What is the story trying to say? . Maybe it about the difference between races , or it could be about family and how generation are different or the same . It could also be about keeping quite for the sake of a happy and peacefull life. Whatever your conclusion the overiding aspect of this film is the acting. Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry are fantastic as they keep the viewer mesmerised throughout a film that could be described a slow at the best of times. This movie looks superb which is great considering there are no <more>
flashy special affects. If your feeling low this is not the film to pep you up because it is quite dark and depressing but i urge you to watch this symply for the fantastic acting. 8 out of 10.