F.I.L.M. of the Week (May 21, 2010)

21 05 2010

I thought I would give a one-week reprieve from the heavier movies. Now, the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” takes a step towards the wrenching with “Monster’s Ball,” a movie with the power to conjure up all sorts of emotions. You might remember the movie because of Halle Berry’s emotional Oscar speech after becoming the first African-American to win Best Actress. But as soon as you watch the movie, you will remember the movie because of her performance, which is the film’s heart and soul.

Berry inhabits the character of Leticia Musgrove, a woman who is stuck in circumstances she can’t stand. Her husband (Sean Combs or whatever shortening of his name he goes by now) is set to receive the death penalty. Her son (Coronji Calhoun in a mesmerizing and powerful debut performance) is morbidly obese, and she can’t get him to lay off the candy bars. Her car is busted, her house is about to be foreclosed, her job situation is hectic. Most of all, her soul is weak under all these burdens.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Hank, a correctional officer at the prison where Leticia’s husband is executed. He is a cold-hearted racist and doesn’t hesitate showing it. He can’t stand his son (Heath Ledger) who is trying to follow his own moral compass. He is bitter for being straddled with the care of his ailing father (Peter Boyle), an even more extreme racist than himself.

Don’t Leticia and Hank sound like an unlikely pair?  Moreover, doesn’t Hank’s shoulder seem like the least likely place for Leticia to cry into?  Yet as events unfold, the two connect in surprising ways, shocking the traditional Southern community around them.

Halle Berry is absolutely astonishing, hitting every emotional high and low with pin-point precision.  There’s no doubt that she deserved the Oscar.  I haven’t seen “Things We Lost in the Fire,” her only non-comic book or action movie since her win, but I’m a little upset that she has squandered such incredible talent on such unworthy material.  She needs to get back to roles like these, ones that accurately showcase just how talented she is.  Maybe Mo’Nique and “Monster’s Ball” producer Lee Daniels will give her a role in the Hattie McDaniel movie – here’s hoping!