ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  marc forster

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  111 minutes

RELEASED  -  26 december 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  lions gate films

OFFICIAL SITE  -  monster's ball

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $4,000,000
monster's ball - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from monster's ball at

buy the dvd from monster's ball at

a white, racist prison guard falls in love with the black wife of a man he executed.

wes bentley turned down the role of sonny.


picture from monster's ball

picture from monster's ball

picture from monster's ball


two out of four possible stars

It would be unfair to say that everyone in this film is unlikable. There is only the occasional moment during the script when it might be possible to sympathize with one of the poor, wretched souls that inhabit this film. Their lives are hopeless, their situations unenviable, and their attitudes are not always able to inspire empathy within the audience. The pure suffering endured by these characters could easily be labeled as being the most intense drama presented in a film in recent history.

Every actor in this film has to portray someone who has had to experience a life-altering tragedy, and Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry give extremely realistic and tragic performances in their roles. And joining them in the cast, Heath Ledger, Sean Combs, Peter Boyle, and Mos Def, all do an excellent job in bringing to life a world where suffering is the norm. Even small enjoyments, like conversations with friends or socializing, are not something that these people get to enjoy.

Although the story explores a quite interesting story, and the actors fulfill every emotional requirement as their characters in the film, this does not stop an overwhelming sense of depression from seeping through every frame. It begs the question: why would someone create a film with so little hope and so little resolution? It might be worth saying that this film is valuable based only on its performances alone, because the sentiments expressed by the characters are not unique, nor are they all that quite interesting.

And to put it bluntly, the attitudes taken by some of the characters are very cliché and don't allow for transformations by the end of the film. Peter Boyle's character, "Buck Grotowski," who is Billy Bob's father, is an evil man. His character has no shades of gray. He is an unchanging character. He begins the film as a hated person and ends the movie as just the same person. Heath Ledger as well, who play's Billy Bob's son, "Sonny," is one of the most unfortunate members of the cast, but is not particularly sympathetic.

The same could be said for Billy Bob's character of "Hank," and Halle's character of "Leticia." They both do things that cause a rift to form between them and the audience. Is it worth seeing this film's conclusion, when so many of the characters are unsympathetic? Enduring performances aside, these characters live in a depressing world and do not carry the weight of the story well. It is possible to feel sorrow for each of them, but not empathy. Sorrow is the type of emotion one might feel when watching a newscast of a murdered child, but it's not the right emotion for a movie to inspire.

As an interested audience member, one should care what happens to the characters one has invested two hours worth of one's time in. But it is hard to sympathize with a woman who hits her child or a racist man who hates his son and works as an executioner. And though their love for one another may be a high point in the film, it's not an easy accomplishment to care whether or not their relationship is successful. And in point of fact, if there is a high point to the performances in the film, one of the most successful pieces of casting was probably the hiring of Mos Def to play Ryrus Cooper, Billy Bob's black neighbor.

Although he is only featured in a handful of scenes, Mos still makes the most natural and believable appearance in the film. And Heath Ledger, even though he is a very conflicted young man, is also the character the audience will empathize with, if they are to feel anything for a character. Taking into account a subtle script that makes good use of its actors, even if it is depressing, this film seems to have been made by a passionate set of filmmakers and actors and as a whole, the film could be labeled "interesting" at the very least.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content © 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs © lions gate films 2001
home | archive | ratings | links | photographs | about | contact