Monster’s Ball (2001)

(On DVD, June 2003) Slow-moving, often unpleasant family drama that seems far too contrived for its own good. Set in the southern United States and seemingly dedicated to re-establish all prejudices about the old confederate states, Monster’s Ball stars a bunch of unpleasant characters whose sole purpose seems to be highly obnoxious before being removed from the film. We Sauvé siblings were not impressed: the ferocity of our wisecracks approached that of far worse movies. It’s not as if the film doesn’t attain a certain level of affection (the ending is touching, and the last characters left standing do deserve the best they can manage) but it takes a long long while to get there. The danger is in considering Monster’s Ball as somehow emblematic of any social issue like racism, poverty or the death penalty; the level of manipulation required to plot the story makes it patently ridiculous as an instrument of social commentary. Fans of Halle Berry will be both pleased at the intense nudity and embarrassed at a few showy scenes. (She looks good naked, but she’s not convincing when hysterical or drunk, which seems to be her character’s two dominant modes. Otherwise, her character seems solely conceived as a personality-free victim) Was the Oscar deserved? Hey, don’t get me started on that! The DVD contains a few behind-the-scenes sequences that could be best characterized as a humour reel. There was also a director’s commentary, but we could muster enough interest to go through the movie again.

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