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Eyes Wide Shut
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Country: Canada, USA
Runtime: 111 minutes
Theatrical Release: 12/26/2001
US DVD Release: 06/11/2002
a family tragedy, a racist prison guard re-examines his attitudes
while falling in love with the African American wife of the last prisoner
he executed. Set in the Southern United States, 'Monster's Ball' is
a tale of a racist white man, Hank (played by Billy Bob Thornton),
who falls in love with a black woman named Leticia (Halle Berry).
Ironically Hank is a prison guard working on Death Row who executed
Leticia's husband (Sean Combs). Hank and Leticia's interracial affair
leads to confusion and new ideas for the two unlikely lovers.
Musgrove (Berry) is the wife of a Death Row inmate (Combs) and mother
of a troubled obese teenager. Hank Grotowski (Thornton) works, like
his retired father Buck (Boyle) and his own boy Sonny (Ledger), as
a guard at the pen, proudly professional to the bitter end. Leticia
is imprisoned by hardship and disappointment, Hank by the steely reserve
required for his job and by a disciplinarian machismo inherited from
a racist dad. What brings them together is chance; what they have
in common is death, pain, rage, loneliness. You'd expect this cast
to produce fine performances, and Berry and Billy Bob are merely the
laurel-stealing protagonists. Praiseworthy too is Schaefer's 'Scope
camerawork and Addica and Rokos' tough but sensitive script. Director
Forster doesn't hurry things; a hell of a lot happens before the leads
meet, and even then it's not cute. Violence (familial and institutional),
deep-seated distrust and hatred (this is the South) cast long shadows,
and an electric-chair scene ensures we remember love's seldom simple.
At the same time, Berry and Thornton play so well that the pitfalls
of miserabilist chic are mostly avoided: hope is always felt as a
presence or possibility. If certain heavier-handed sequences don't
quite gel, the (un-Hollywood) ending is nevertheless perfectly judged,
persuasive and unusually graceful. Reviewed
by "Time Out"
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