Monster's Ball
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

Don't be fooled by the Georgia License plates and the peaches, this movie was shot in Louisiana.  Now you know why we love it so much down here.  Just kidding, Robin!  It's weird that they tried to make it Georgia.  Besides that fact that there aren't a lot of big levees there, we can clearly see the outline of Louisiana on the Prison Guard uniforms worn by several of the main characters.  Anyway, this is the story of a guard (Billy Bob Thornton) at the Louisiana State Pen, known affectionately down here as Angola. He works on Death Row.   Working at the State Pen is a family affair.  Billy Bob's father (Peter Boyle) was a prison guard and his son (Heath Ledger) has followed in their footsteps.  As the film opens, one the prisoners (Puff Daddy) is about to be executed and is saying farewell to his wife (Halle Berry) and son.  Puff Daddy likes to sketch people to pass the time and does portraits of Billy Bob and Heath.  I mention this because it's important later.  Anyway, these are not happy people.  Billy Bob gets along neither with his racist father nor with his son.  He is angry.  On the other side of the tracks, things aren't any better.  Puff Daddy is executed leaving Halle Berry struggling to survive.  Then, when similar tragedies strike both families, Billy Bob and Halle meet and get involved.  They are both so needy that they just naturally gravitate to each other.  Halle doesn't know that Billy Bob was one of the Death Row guards when her husband was there.  Billy Bob finds out when he finds some of his sketches. He doesn't feel the need to tell Halle about this.  Meanwhile, Halle is becoming totally dependent on Billy Bob.  The story continues to swirl, with the characters always about to go into a death spiral.  But that doesn't quite happen and despite everything there is some hope at the end.  The ambiguous final scene is pretty realistic.  They don't know what is going to happen in the future.  Oh ya, there is that big sex scene.   Well, it's true you see a lot of Halle Berry but be warned,  you see a lot more of Billy Bob and that can be a bit scary.  The cast is very good in Monster's Ball.  As you probably know, Halle Berry went after this role big-time in order to show once and for all that she is not just another pretty face.  First of all , even though they go to great lengths to tone down her looks in Monster's Ball, she still looks great.  Second, she can act.  She has shown this before in Jungle Fever, Bulworth and Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.  But she shows it here and certainly deserves her Oscar nomination.   Billy Bob does his usual good job of dropping completely into character.  Heath Ledger is almost unrecognizable as he morphs himself into an unhappy young man from Louisiana.  He is very good in this small role.  Peter Boyle, probably still most famous for his part as The Monster in Young Frankenstein, has a role with a little more edge to it that he usually shows.  Monster's Ball is a typical story of whites, blacks, and dysfunctional families that we have come to expect from the South.  The title refers to a party given for the condemned man the night before his execution. Billy Bob's whole life is a Monster's Ball.