Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Halle Berry in Monster's Ball

Halle Berry made history when she became the first African American actress to receive the Best Actress Oscar in 2001 for playing Leticia Musgorve, a bitter, grief-stricken woman in the independant movie, Monster's Ball. I guess if I had been an Oscar nerd back then, I wouldn't have predicted Berry to win the Oscar. Not until the SAG awards, at least. That was the only major award that she won (Sissy Spacek won the majority of the critics' awards and she was followed by Nicole). I guess the award that she won at the Berlin Film Festival didn't matter that much Oscar-wise. Still, she won in a surprise and made history. Nowadays many people make fun of her speech but I can understand her feelings.

Monster's Ball is a fantastic, thought-provoking and really devastating movie. It's such a complex and fascinating experience, one that you never forget once you see it. You can love it or loathe it but you can't deny that it's a special movie. I think it definitely deserved a Best Picture nomination, more than most (or all) of the nominees that year. Same for Billy Bob Thornton. He gave (probably) the performance of his lifetime and he's so great as the repressed guy. I also would have voted for this movie in the Best Original Screenplay category.

Halle Berry is another example of an underrated actress. She's an actress who would deserve much better roles and yet she has to do things like Catwoman. I guess her brilliant looks are serious drawbacks in terms of her career. I guess she was really lucky with Monster's Ball. After actresses like Angela Bassett and Vanessa Williams turned the part down, I guess the role of Leticia was played by the right actress, eventually.

I'll explain this later but I'm saying this right now, in short: Halle Berry is incredible as Leticia Musgrove. I mean, I know that it's not very popular to say such things about her, she's really Amazing. Yes, Amazing with capital A. I guess the biggest haters of this performance cannot really identify with this character or (thank God) they haven't felt what Leticia felt in Monster's Ball. I'm just telling the story once again: Leticia is a broken-down woman whose son dies quickly after her husband and the kid's father is executed. Leticia find comfort on the side of a racist cop and a special relationship is born between them.

Many say that Berry's performance in Monster's Ball consists of two performances: one of them is loud, over-the-top acted and the other one is a silent, more subtle one. I'm saying right here that it's the biggest piece of garbage that I've ever heard. What one can see in Halle's work is the mood-swings of a devastated woman who's overwhelmed by the emotions and she cannot control herself. Even before the deaths, Leticia is exhausted. Halle's amazing in the scene where Leticia sees her husband for the last time. I was just thinking "poor woman". There's so much pain and suffering inside and (at least for me), it's always really disturbing to see the mental breakdown of a person. Again, it's the mood swings when she beats up her obese child crazily.

And after a while, it's just fascinating to see her infamous "Make me feel good!" scene. Before having sex, Leticia breaks down to an almost total stranger. Halle shows all the pain of this character mindblowingly. All those overwhelming emotions make it a very disturbing and heart-breaking scenes. Halle doesn't exaggerate the drunken state of Leticia. Halle's acting in that scene is just perfect. Once, I had a 0,00001% similar experience with booze and it's just unbelievable how well Halle portrayed that awkward and overemotional state. It was fantastic.

Still, it would be really hard to pick my favorite scene of this performance because choosing between the previously mentioned sequence and the one where she's humiliated by her boyfriend's racist father is just impossible. That's and example of Halle's calm and subtle acting and it's such a harrowing, unforgettable and brutally realistic scene. Halle showed so many sides of Leticia's humiliation. She's cornered and it's really painful to see her.

Halle's chemistry with Billy Bob Thornton (if we can talk about such a thing) is just brilliant. I saw them like lonely birds in winter who are holding onto each other so that they are not cold. It was just fascinating to see them relying on each other. They were mutually supportive and we can feel the special bondage between them. I really cannot decide if it was really love. Maybe. But I guess that's not important. And that becomes obvious in another brilliant scene where Leticia realises the horrible and devastating truth about Hank, his boyfriend. Halle is so damn effective and brilliant there. Her acting there is the definition of mindblowing.

Really, there's no more appropriate word to describe Halle Berry's performance in Monster's Ball than mindblowing. She's saw raw and so incredible as Leticia Musgorve and she shows Leticia's inner demons so amazingly. She's unbelievably effective and although I might understand why some don't like her, I think that she's just fantastic and shows the mood swings and breakdowns of Leticia incredibly. Brutally raw, amazing work.

What do you think?


mrripley said...

I really liked her too,more so in the quiet scenes,i can still remember the oscars and her clip my fave scene and just thought she has won.

i am a sissy fan myself but could not agree more with your review,i don't find her uneven just her character.

the specch she gave let her down,a bit too much for me,gwyneth memories came flooding back but in her profession she made history so could understand the way she reacted.

there are far worse performances praised and underpraised to have won and berry ranks as a worthy winner it is not as if she beat the performance of the millenium to it,though sissy is still my pick with berry 2nd.

great write up!!! glad yo uweren't afraid of the backlash and went with your true feelings!

joe burns said...

Really impressive writeup! I think she's good, but parts of it don't work at all for me, and the film is rather too much for me, and isn't believable.

Derek Bowman said...

I'm quite fond of her, too. I don't understand some of the dislike for this performance. Most of the dislike seems to be about her subsequent career. And I love her acceptance speech because it is kind of hilarious.

dinasztie said...

mrripley: Thanks! It's great to hear.

Joe: Thanks.

Derek: Yes, that has a lot to do with that, I think. :)

mrripley said...

What did you think of peter boyle deserving of a supp actor nomination in my book i actuallt felt sorry for him at the end!!

dinasztie said...

I think he could have received a nomination, he was really deserving. Actually, he was really mean and yet he had depth. Great work.

I think the whole movie was criminally undernominated.

Fritz said...

Well, I'm one of those who think that her performance consists of over-the-top and quiet acting, so...

dinasztie said...

Well, sorry. I hope you're not that offended. I got carried away, I guess but I really love her in this one... :)

Anonymous said...

Yes! A great review of an amazing performance! I think she may win this!!!

Anonymous said...

Why are you apologizing to that guy for liking a performance and writing a really great review? Halle was at her best here and there's nothing about her performance that is over the top... I've known people from the country in the south/midwest and I feel like Leticia is someone I truly could've met, through and through... great review and great blog!