Initially, I had zero interest in seeing this film, no idea what it was about, but then I remembered Billy Bob Thornton is in it. Then it got a zillion nominations so I had to see it. The last three roles I have seen Thornton in, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Bandits, and A Simple Plan (he was the only really good thing), I have loved loved loved him. So I went. My god! This movie is deep and rich and tragic and amazing. So much unhappiness when people resist each other; so much amazing beauty when people do allow others in. It’s pretty black and white (no pun intended) about the message of “hate makes you unhappy, using your heart makes you a better person.” Perhaps the film does detour into a heavy-handed side bar for Peter Boyle (playing Thornton’s dad), but the way Thornton’s and Halle Berry’s two worlds collide is like watching a slow-motion two-car wreck – amazing. So many parts you never looked at before, crushing and melding and exposing bits of yourself, so much broken glass and seemingly uncrushable things crumpling like paper.
Halle Berry is simply amazing. She is astounding. I can’t say enough. I can’t give it away, but it’s one look over her shoulder at Billy Bob Thornton, just a quick look, that said so many volumes both about her character and his. I still think about just that one second of the film. Just one look, and of course the rest of everything she did – she was marvelous, and you have to see it just for her. She’s no angel, she has plenty of problems, as does Thornton, but their problems are eerily complementary, and she must be strong in order to find redemption, in allowing herself to be weak. Holy moly. Fantastic. “Dear Academy…”
If you go to the IMDB.com and look up the writers and directors, it seems they have not done very much at all. More and more often the boldest films (this, In The Bedroom) seem to come from neophytes, and the most tiresome self-indulgent hack jobs (Mulholland Drive, Phantom Menace) come from supposed masters of the craft. Give me more of this! This is not a cheery, feel good romp across lines of race, attitude, or class lines. This is a Message Movie that also is a fairly simple story made (dare I say it) luminous by two masterful actors. But honestly, why all the fuss about Berry taking off her top in Swordfish? We see parts of her naked here as well, but her physical nudity is so secondary to her emotional nakedness that you forget she is also unclothed. You also forget all about that idiotic Pepsi commerical. Maybe she’s schizophrenic – those cannot be the same actresses. This is the Halle Berry who was in Losing Isaiah.
Peter Boyle, Heath Ledger, Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy/P. Diddy in yet another stereotype-cementing role) and Coronki Calhoun play the families of Thornton’s and Berry’s characters. They are, by necessity, simpler prototypes of the images being perceived by the people around them, but it is through these supporting individuals’ unacknowledged connection that the real tension between our stars is born. Impressive stuff.
MPAA Rating R-sexual content, language, violence
Release date 12/26/01 LA/NY
Time in minutes 111
Director Marc Forster
Studio Lion’s Gate