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Overall Rating

Awesome: 30.82%
Worth A Look32.88%
Just Average: 12.33%
Pretty Crappy: 12.33%
Sucks: 11.64%

10 reviews, 86 user ratings

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Monster's Ball
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by billypilgrimnz

"Confused, overwrought study of racism....."
2 stars

This is one ugly film, both in terms of the simple story and the tiresome naturalised photography; good acting can't rescue a film which has an elementary school grasp on complex issues, and a 6 year old's penchant for random cruelty.

Social issues films are tricky to film. I'm talking from a simple technical viewpoint here: make it too glossy and sophisticated and you run the risk of being criticized for trivializing the subject (imagine ONCE WERE WARRIORS filmed like FIGHT CLUB); make it too raw and cheap, and it can become distracting and detract from the story (even films where the story is ridiculous, like DANCER IN THE DARK).

Marc Forster doesn't go too far either way, but he can't find a satisfactory middle ground either - instead, he embraces the worst of both worlds, a sort of overly deliberate, fussy naturalism, creating an intensely ugly film that could have complemented the storyline, but instead sucks the life out of the plot. For some reason, he chooses to film in 2.35:1, and then steadfastly refuses to do anything with the frame; his composition is something like an untended attic, something here, something there, vacuums of space mixed with areas of clutter. It does nothing for the film, other than to cause viewers to wonder whether camera position was determined by a random number generator, and blocking a matter of wandering into frame from time to time, just to show that the characters are still there.

Obviously, Forster had enough confidence in his story and performers to not feel it necessary to dress it up. He was half right. Together Berry and Thornton are electric, bundles of pain looking for an outlet, and sex is as good as anything. You never quite buy them as a couple, but as individual characters, they are riveting. But the real surprise is Ledger, who raises his game well-beyond previous outings (the grating sincerity in THE PATRIOT, the out-of-step swashbuckling of A KNIGHT’S TALE), managing to pull his character out of the realm of screenwriter prop and into a reality beyond Oscar-bating and moral messages. You feel for him more than Berry and Thornton's characters because deep down you know that no matter what misery the screenwriting God's throw their way, for them redemption and hope is only a plot twist away. With Ledger's character, there's genuine doubt, and a sense of unease concerning his future that the young actor exploits fully.

But the story is a bust. As a study of innate racism, it's about as deep and meaningful as an episode of Diff'rent Strokes. Peter Boyle, who, in keeping with the other performers, is masterful in a slow, malignant performance, nevertheless is forced to utter racist rants only in order to move the story forward. Thornton's bigoted nature is soft-peddled so much that it doesn't even become an issue. If he is supposed to be thoroughly racist, then the idea that his whole belief system can be turned around because of a girl with a nice rack is naive and ultimately insulting to those recipients of racism – the implied message being you should just look sexier, and you’d be fine. If he is merely trying to please his father, he film cannot find a suitable way to show it. In the end, racism is played like a suit that can be taken on and off depending on the occasion.

And you get the feeling that the film knows that it's take on racism is all surface, and it compensated by flinging so much misery at the main characters, we are forced not to consider the inconsistencies of the story, and it's kindergarten view of race relations. It makes for an emotionally involving sequence of events - and seems to offer the thesis that everyone can be equal in the eyes of a vengeful screenwriter ("black or white, we can destroy your life for the benefit of a nice story arc"), with tears standing in for trenchant observation and character development. MONSTER’S BALL is a well-acted, well-meaning mess.

Whether Halle Berry deserved her Oscar or not is neither here nor there (personally, I reluctantly say no); all that matters is that the film she appears in doesn't deserve it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5684&reviewer=397
originally posted: 02/16/05 18:23:07
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User Comments

3/24/18 morris campbell downbeat but potent & honest 4 stars
1/23/11 Jeff Wilder Acting by Thornton and Berry is good. But overall it lacks the emotional impact it needs. 3 stars
9/26/08 Arcane Shit movie...slow as hell. Only watch if you like Halle and wanna see 'her'. 1 stars
9/25/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome story! 5 stars
3/15/08 ladavies I think this movie is going to age well, to become an American classic. 5 stars
3/14/06 Jennifer I think this film was downright awful! 1 stars
9/07/05 bac movie isn't good at all, and the sex scene was unnecessary 1 stars
8/18/05 ES Incredibly hot sex scene wrapped in a boring, flavourless shell 2 stars
7/06/05 Pinkline Jones Berry's performance overrated as is the movie 4 stars
3/31/05 Carolyn Cherry I liked It 4 stars
3/18/05 lora mixed feelings, interesting but no sure I liked it 3 stars
3/04/05 Chris Stephens It was OK 3 stars
2/23/05 Dusty Johnson Loved it - Halle Berry is great! 4 stars
2/22/05 gracecchu The movie was totally not what I expected. Good, though I probably won't watch it again. 4 stars
2/19/05 Charlene Javier Billy Bob is good! 4 stars
2/19/05 abhster Halle Berry was riveting. Very raw and difficult for repeat watching. 4 stars
2/19/05 ashutitan no 5 stars
2/18/05 Denise okay 3 stars
2/18/05 Brenda Riley This one made me cry! 5 stars
2/18/05 april gupton relly creepy movie 2 stars
2/18/05 Shel Actually, I thought this movie portrayed H.B. as an actress and not just a "sex symbol" 4 stars
2/17/05 Colleen Goldrick i liked it 4 stars
2/17/05 Fahad Pinto way cool 4 stars
10/27/04 MEIRAV NORA COHEN Good acting. Sad movie 4 stars
9/30/04 Lourdes WOW 5 stars
7/16/04 Daveman This collection of promising elements unfortunately never quite amount to a unified film. 3 stars
7/13/04 Alfred Guy I don't see an award winning performance. Not even a great story. 3 stars
7/08/04 J Cadiramen This was gritty and harsh... the sex scene was powerful, if prolonged. 4 stars
7/07/04 Denise Duspiva why did she win the oscar i can't figure it out 3 stars
7/05/04 Talonsoft Boring, Way!!! overated 1 stars
6/26/04 Charlene Javier Didn't like it at first. Love it now. 5 stars
6/17/04 Future NBA player why do white people hate on outstanding beautiful black actresses? White people..get a life 5 stars
5/06/04 Ross Interesting? no, doesn't everybody have sex like that? 2 stars
1/01/04 General Lee Stoned Good beatoff material at the end.. nothing wrong with some halle soft porn 3 stars
9/11/03 Goofy Maxwell To believe anglos invite afro-am's to the "ball" out of guilt is to be the "monster". 4 stars
6/26/03 cochese Best Actress!!?? HAHAHAHAHA. Another token negro gets an oscar. 1 stars
4/18/03 kevin hot 5 stars
4/17/03 Jack Sommersby Predictable and uninsightful. Thornton is superb; Berry is sub-par 2 stars
3/11/03 Shao Kahn Go home Halle you can't act! 3 stars
2/14/03 othree honest fast pace wincing personal story leaves you to take alot for granted 4 stars
2/04/03 Drunk Love Hey Triangle Man, go suck it off Eric's "Benet", have a drink & have a Monster Ball. }> 4 stars
2/02/03 Turtle None of the characters are worth sympathizing over in this badly written, overacted trash. 1 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones Zombi Holocaust was much more entertaining 1 stars
1/15/03 John Bale Powerful romantic drama with outstanding cast. Tennessy Williams would be proud. 5 stars
1/10/03 Can't stand Halle I want (sob) to thank (sob) the Academy (sob) for giving (sob) me this undeserved Oscar 1 stars
12/29/02 Femme_Fataleaa I was thoroughly dissapointed with Halle's choice of roles 2 stars
12/10/02 Ken I actually agreed with Mark Adnum. Who knew? Berry is incredible. And gorgeous. 4 stars
11/27/02 coods tuddtr 5 stars
9/10/02 Francofile Hooray - a movie that makes you think about the tough stuff. 4 stars
8/17/02 baby why would she accept such a degrating role she makes black women look bad she doesnt deserv 2 stars
8/17/02 DGaba Exceptional, Powerful, Incredable, Stunningly Excellent 5 stars
8/13/02 Bryan Brooks Why was this movie made? This has no point. 3 stars
8/12/02 Phil M. Aficionado I watched it twice in a row. It is that good. Lovingly made, tackles tough stuff head on 5 stars
7/11/02 Mark Adnum Sorry Melissa in NYC 4 stars
7/09/02 Bada Bing Crosby Movie is a mess; Oscars are now officially ruined thx to Halle's meltdown on stage 1 stars
7/01/02 Melissa in NYC Marc, your review sucks.Thanks for giving us details that ruins the movie.Fucker! 5 stars
6/23/02 Joe Hally Berry deserved her Oscar!! 5 stars
6/21/02 The Bomb69 solid film, ending left me a bit confused though 4 stars
6/20/02 Dark Barøn Not what I expected. And that's good. 5 stars
6/14/02 CDawson Great movie! Oscar for Halle ... why? 4 stars
6/14/02 natasha set-up is hard to believe, but the payoff is still good 4 stars
5/14/02 hbotis@hotmail.com Amazing! Not what I expected. 5 stars
4/27/02 Magnum Craphole Best movie I've seen in the theaters in quite a long time. 5 stars
4/10/02 Monster W. Kung Easily, one of the best pictures of the year. Very emotional. 5 stars
4/04/02 ^Elendil^ Feel-good movie without the sugar (or you could just read Souter's spoiler!). 4 stars
3/28/02 Natalie Stonecipher Self-redeems in love story, but abuser's abrupt reform after son's suicide a bit incredible 4 stars
3/24/02 Bernice Hamel Amazed & wept by the story & performances. s & story. Wept 5 stars
3/19/02 malcolm supremely acted by the entire cast. slow in a couple of places. 4 stars
3/15/02 Bertha Venation Ugh, a bit of a drag. Lifeless. Illogical. Best characters dead early on. 3 stars
3/11/02 spaceworm The penultimate shot (watch Halle's face) justifies - nearly too late - the Oscar hype. 4 stars
3/07/02 luigi leone stone cold 5 stars
3/01/02 JB This is my kinda movie. Not much optimism. Beautiful movie. 5 stars
2/27/02 TorontoMan Saw it last week, was a fine film for all the reasons given in Eric's review 5 stars
2/25/02 Xaver Overall, a good film. Thornton did a great job. Drunk sex scene could have been better. 4 stars
2/25/02 ownerofdajoint gutsymaterialdealtwithrealunderstandingofthestupidityofracism 5 stars
2/25/02 Georgia Getschow Only went to see Heath Ledger again. Too much nudity --nothing left to imagination. 3 stars
2/22/02 IP Freely Watching the hooker take it from behind was best part of this turd of a film. Total crap! 1 stars
2/18/02 Stephanie Extremely heavy movie. 4 stars
2/17/02 costars2 Captivating; flawless, haunting film; fab performances 5 stars
2/16/02 Gibbo Very depressing, but a powerful and deeply moving story 4 stars
2/13/02 Butterbean Puffy was excellent! But the critics praised Berry only because she did a soft porn scene 4 stars
2/12/02 Ray Charles I *WISH* I was blind 1 stars
1/08/02 Melissa in NYC Absolutely wonderful - every key actor in the film is worth gold. 5 stars
1/04/02 Jake Remarkable film. Very moving and engrossing. 5 stars
12/22/01 Tom Great FIlm like they used to have in the 70's- Greatscript-Halle/BBT /Mos D are great!!! 5 stars
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  26-Dec-2001 (R)



Directed by
  Marc Forster

Written by
  Milo Addica
  Will Rokos

  Billy Bob Thornton
  Halle Berry
  Heath Ledger
  Peter Boyle
  Sean Combs
  Mos Def

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