Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Monster's Ball

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language and violence

Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Romance Thriller Drama
Length:
1 hr. 51 min.
Year of Release:
2001
Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball Billy Bob Thornton, Peter Boyle and Heath Ledger in Monster’s Ball

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle, P. Diddy | Directed by: Marc Forster | Produced by: Lee Daniels, Eric Kopeloff, Tom Ortenberg | Written by: Milo Addica, Will Rokos | Distributor: Lions Gate Films

“Monster’s Ball” is actually an X-rated film. The “R” rating is simply indequate… There are explicit scenes of prostitution and sexual activity. This is a difficult movie to review from the Christian point of view. The objectionable scenes almost preclude a review for Christians at all. It has been, however, very well-received by secular critics, for which reason I went, being an avid movie-goer and reviewer and at 56, not particularly impressionable. The movie turned out to have artistic merit in many ways, including direction, screenplay and acting. I can only marginally recommend this movie for those particular reasons and none other.

The story revolves around two people who have suffered losses. Leticia, played by Halle Berry, is a woman whose husband is on death row and is finally executed by electrocution in a painfully graphic scene. She has a pre-teen son for whom she has to provide. Hank, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is the corrections officer who, with his son, played by Heath Ledger, has Leticia’s husband (P. Diddy) put to death.

Leticia and Hank meet by chance, as he helps her with her son. She does not know Hank’s connection to her dead husband. On the other hand, he does know she is the widow of the executed inmate. Therein lies some of the poignancy of their relationship. We surmise that he wants to help her.

But lust is a primary factor, as each reaches out physically to the other one in their individual despair. The nudity was not warranted (is it ever?) and the feelings and thoughts of the characters could have been conveyed without all the visible body parts. The relationship between the two is well-scripted. The screenplay defines their characters clearly. The interaction is well done, not only by Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton, but by all members of the cast.

The movie’s focus is on how people grapple with their circumstances. One of them even states that he feels “stuck.” Stuck in his circumstances, stuck with who he is. This applies to all the dramatis personae of this film, who fulfill their fate, so to speak. There doesn’t seem to be much freedom, and happiness seems to consist of adjusting to one’s circumstances.

As stated before, this movie is unsuitable for the average movie-goer, especially for the Christian because of the nudity and fornication. For those who are fully aware of the nature of this film, and insist on seeing well-reviewed performances, this movie does offer good performances and some interesting points of view on life’s troubles.

Viewer Comments
Negative—A complete and utter waste of my time and money. The only and I mean only good thing about the movie was the acting for HB. Otherwise, there was no value in seeing the movie. Even her acting was not worth the time! My wife and I went to this one together and left feeling very disappointed. There was sexual immorality of all sorts, foul language, racism, child abuse, gluttony, and probably some others. The beating of the child was disgusting to me. I left the theater during the sex scene between the 2 main characters. Even the lighting throughout the movie was bad. The complete disregard for human feelings in all characters was very evident. This movie was almost as bad as Eye of the Beholder. Save you money and time, this one stinks.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 1]
—AJ Johnson, age 34
Positive—Can I please stand up in defense of this movie? It truly is a work of art—and yes, nudity is warranted especially in this picture—about characters so weak they must be passionate to survive. People expect Christianity to be catered to them on a silver platter, well, it ain’t gonna happen. You have the most Christian movie of the year right in front of your noses, and you can’t see it. A lesser director would have had Leticia becoming extremely angry at Hank for not telling her about the circumstances of their relationship. Instead, she discovers them, and realizes that Hank, like Christ, reached out to help someone who he certainly didn’t have to because he knew it was right instead of walking away. In realizing this, she does the same thing for him, and the movie ends on a hopeful note. There are themes depicting strong southern racism that get across a poignant message…
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Eric Schmidt
Negative—…In the first 5 minutes of the movie there is a scene that is uncalled for. A guy’s has anal sex with a women and then leaves. I walked out of the movie as fast as I could…
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive]
—Joe, age 20
Positive—Billy Bob’s character never seemed to be a dyed-in-the-wool racist anyway. (We blacks are such experts on racists, aren’t we?) Just daddy-whipped. I figured the writer wanted us to believe that “great grief can bring people together.” But grief doesn’t necessarily bring people together. Sometimes it isolates folks. But the two dead children are supposed to be a sacrifice so that Billy Bob’s soul—and by extension, the soul of the American racist, (because he seemed to be symbolic of possible healing of American racists.)—would be healed and accept weakness.

I say this because the screenwriters seemed to be showing that men in the south were gender-conflicted—the worst insult was to be compared to a wimpy mother and the best motivation was to be compared to a racist mother. And the racism goes when the racist character connects to Letitcia and accepts the fact that compassion is still a manly trait. Then he can accept his soft son. The movie says that white racists can have sex with black women but love for and compassion for another race is discouraged. Remember many old-time racists were raised by black mammies and had to learn to dehumanize them as they “grew up.”

Allowing himself to realize his hidden feelings—about race, women, black women, weakness, the shadow—was understandable and the connecting to the heart was okay. What I thought was pretty bad and downright EASY was that he Billy Bob’s son was killed. A bad creative move. As a writer, I just thought: look at all the possibilities of deepening the story that are now lost because they knocked off the son. There could have been healing and accepting weakness and a future of black, white and mixed descendants… which is really what the south is. As it is now, He has bonded with blacks but he has not found a man who is emotional and gooey and “weak” to pal around with. He has found his feminine side within himself again but he denied his dad and locked daddy away in a nursing home.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 4½]
—Carole McDonnell, age 42
Negative—I can’t believe anyone would give this film a positive review. It’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen. There were 3 sexually explicit scenes that went far beyond what should be shown in a public theatre. It truly deserved an X rating. I’m not a prude—I can put up with offensive things if they are necessary for the overall artistic merit of the film. But this is what Hollywood is now offering in lieu of talent these days.

The boring script had no sense of direction and crawled at a snail’s pace. It was offensive enough that several people immediately left the theatre after the first prostitute scene. Of course the secular film critics nationwide are giving this film rave reviews for its “grittiness”. And the synopsis in my local paper made no mention of the graphic sexuality, preferring instead to only reveal the basic story line.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 1]
—Steve, age 34
Negative—Don’t waste your time on this film. Buy your wife dinner go get ice cream with you kids. Anything you do will be better than watching this. If you really want to watch this movie at least wait until it’s on video so you can hit the F/F button and if that be the case make sure there is no chance a child could walk into the room. Complete filth.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 4]
—Jeff, age 27
Positive—An excellent character study about two people brought together by the tragedies and negative circumstances in their lives. The acting was superb, esp. by Ms. Berry (who deserves her Oscar nod) and Mr. Thornton. The sex scenes are not there to titilate the audience, but to show how the deep pain and hurt the main characters have that drive them to want to have some hope in their lives. Audiences should be more offended by the racism that some of the characters exhibit and endure. The pacing of the film is slow, like the small Georgia town the action takes place in, and it fits the story perfectly.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4½]
—Hillari Hunter, age 40
Positive—The nudity was not needed in Monster’s Ball and if the film had not been so well made it would not have been acceptable. But it is very good and the acting is fantastic. Anyone who can deal with several extremely offensive scenes should see it.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive / 5]
—Vikki, age 22