My current Top 5

My current Top 5

1/17/2010

Best Actress 2001: Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball"

Like Sissy Spacek in In the Bedroom, Halle Berry plays a mother who mourns the loss of her son but Halle Berry’s Leticia Musgrove faces even more tragedies in her life: before the death of her son caused by a hit-and-run-accident, her husband is executed in prison. Later, she meets a white man and starts a relationship with him, not knowing that she shares a tragic connection with him.

In showing her character’s grief and sorrow, Halle Berry chose the exact opposite route than Sissy Spacek. While Sissy showed a woman who becomes more and more introverted and who grieves silently, Halle Berry makes Leticia an emotional firework who openly and without any reservation shows how much the tragedies of her life affect her.

In her first scenes, Halle already gives us a good picture of Leticia: she is tired. Tired of going to a prison to visit her husband, tired of everything. It’s the day of his execution but she has bigger problems in her life, like her too old car. Leticia is a woman whose sole ambition is to survive. She doesn’t expect anything out of life anymore. Halle Berry is perfectly able to show the two extreme parts of Leticia – she is a woman who can’t fight anymore but at the same time, she keeps fighting.

In a lot of parts, it’s an astonishingly raw and powerful performance. When we see her in the hospital, crying helplessly, overwhelmed by the death of her son, Halle Berry is emotionally devastating. She is not afraid to let every emotion be bigger than the next, making her loss and grief absolutely tragic and her uncompromising picture of a woman who just lost her child hits the viewer hard.

Halle Berry succeeds in making these overpowering emotional outbursts a normal part of Leticia’s character and her acting is luckily able to make most of these scenes honest and natural instead of over-the-top and awkward.

Unfortunately, Halle Berry does not succeed all the time. While she reaches incredible heights in her performance, she is not always able to avoid various scenes with unbelievable overacting and shrill hysterics that more than once threaten to destroy everything that she achieves in her great scenes. When she is hitting her son because he ate chocolate, she looks so uncomfortable and like a bad drama student who doesn’t know what to do, where to put her arms, how to deliver a line, how to act at all.

It’s also hard to praise her performance while knowing that it also contains one of the worst acted scenes ever by an Oscar-winner, her infamous “Make me feel good”-scene. Halle Berry has all the right instincts in this scene: Leticia is drunk, desperate and still grieving – there is no reason for her to act logical or “normal”, but she simply fails horribly in the execution of the scene which as a result feels out of place and could have destroyed the whole performance.

But even though Halle Berry is uncomfortable to watch in some of her bad scenes, one can’t help but feel overwhelmed by Leticia’s misery and Halle Berry’s ability to bring this all to life without ever making it appear unbelievable.

The most fascinating aspect of this performance are the final minutes. Halle Berry’s wordless final scenes, the look on her face, her shock, her disbelieve und ultimately her acceptance are played incredibly beautifully and really show that Halle completely understood and inhabited this character. It’s a wonderful display of subtlety that was grandly missed in this performance up to this point.

Unfortunately Halle Berry’s performance is not very consistent and offers a constant up-and-down of excellency and awkward overacting. Still, Monster’s Ball is a very strong movie which is due to Halle Berry’s and Billy Bob Thornton’s (mostly) realistic portrayals of two hopeless and helpless souls.

For this, she gets

5 comments:

joe burns said...

Four stars? A bit too kind. I don't think she deserved her Oscar........

Fritz said...

It's four LUISES ;-)

Well, I think that her great moments are so powerful that I am willing to be kind about her not so great scenes. But among my ranking she is very close to the border of 3,5/4 Luises.

joe burns said...

What nominee is next? I hope it's Dench. I think your thoughts on her will determine your ranking. Sorry, I love to guess what it'll be! lol.

Sage Slowdive said...

This would be an easy 5 for me, but it's okay :)

Anonymous said...

I thought she was brilliant and I think her drunken (Make me feel good scene) was actually very well executed and felt natural, I liked her even more than I thought I would and I think she's a deserving winner. Nice review, I completely agree with you about the final scene.