MEMOIR:

FALL 2004:

A Satisfying Newbury Lunch
When It Felt Like Home

SPRING 2003:

The Big Boys
The Fine Art of Urination and Defecation Al Fresco
The Golden City
Inside Looking Out
Roxbury
The Soup Game

FALL 2002:

All the Hearts
Footsteps

SUMMER 2002:

Being Family

SPRING 2002:

An Alternative to the Common Use of Forks
Memoir Lead
Two Weeks in New Mexico
Untitled
Zeroes

FALL 2001:

The Anti-Valentine's Girls
Play

SPRING 2001:

Amour de Soi
The Day Music Let Me Go
The Force
Lucky Me, I'm Gifted
My Green Canyon
A Painful Passion
Point of Departure
Sail the Sea
Smile and Nod

FILM REVIEWS:

FALL 2004:

Lola Takes Us For the Sprint of Our Lives

FALL 2002:

Arlington Road: A Thriller with Thought
A Big Fat Fairytale Wedding
Border Patrol: The War Against Drugs Continues
Not the Stereotypical Shoot 'em Up Gangster Flick
Punch Drunk Love

SPRING 2002:

The Complexity of Artificial Intelligence
Monster's Ball
Monster's Redemption
Royalty Runs in the Family

FALL 2001:

A Hard Day's Night: A Rock 'n' Roll Joyride That Never Runs Out of Steam
Too Many Potholes in Riding in Cars with Boys

SPRING 2001:

Requiem's Melody Lingers
New-and-Improved Horror

FEATURES & PROFILES:

FALL 2002:

In The End, Everything is Crystal Clear
A Match for Success
They Will Follow Him
A Very Bostonian Hotel
What's an A?

READINGS:

The CO201 program hosts special Coffee House Readings periodically throughout each semester. These stories have each been selected by 201 professors for reading.

SPRING 2002:

Death and Board Games
Luxembourg
Resurrection of a Ghost
The Tool Man

FALL 2001:

Bits of Daylight
Leona's House
This is Spinal Tap: No Need for Painkillers
The Toad and the Giant

SPRING 2001:

The Movies
Solving the Equation: The Trials and Triumphs of International Adoption
Yaglafant

ESSAYS:

FALL 2002:

Her Face is Red
Smoking a Cigarette
Stories and Lies
Sumit Ganguly: He, She & It

PROPOSALS:

Proposals are group projects in which 201 students propose and create an ad for a non-profit organization or cause.

SPRING 2002:

Christian Solidarity International

CONTEST WINNERS:

SPRING: 2007

Riches to Rags... to Riches
Man of the House
A 'Special Education' Defined

SPRING: 2006

#71952
For Never Was There a Story of More Woe, than This of Mr. Thomas A. Marcello
Pei-yeh Tsai finds harmony in opposites at the keyboard

SPRING 2005:

Colorado Peaks and Iraqi Deserts: A Paramedic's Story
The Consequences of Drunk Driving
America, Open Your Eyes

SPRING 2004:

A Fine Balance: The Life of an Islamic Teenager
A Genetic Link to Identity: Dr. Bruce Jackson and The Roots Project
Rebel With a Cause

COFFEE HOUSE READINGS:

FALL 2004:

The Amah’s Revenge
Circle in the Sand
It’s How I Walk
School Bus

SPRING 2002:

Death and Board Games
Luxembourg
Resurrection of a Ghost
The Tool Man

FALL 2001:

Bits of Daylight
Leona's House
Nonfiction Story
This is Spinal Tap: No Need for Painkillers
The Toad and the Giant

SPRING 2001:

The Movies
Solving the Equation: The Trials and Triumphs of International Adoption
Yaglafant

MONSTER’S BALL

BY KIMBERLY ALLISON

Marc Forster’s Monster’s Ball is a depiction of one man’s journey to overcome his lifelong ignorance, but this seems to be the film’s only accomplishment. The grisly drama attempts to address pressing racial issues, but instead it creates a monstrous web of unanswered questions and unfulfilled plotlines cleverly masked by brilliant acting and cinematic beauty.

The first half of Monster’s Ball revolves around a family of executioners responsible for the last days of a black death-row inmate. Billy Bob Thornton is striking as Hank Grotowski, a native Georgian who has spent his life following in his father’s footsteps both as a corrections officer in the state penitentiary and as a racist. Peter Boyle plays Thornton’s retired father and delivers a gritty performance that is a welcome change from his role as the wise-cracking Frank Barone on CBS’s Everybody Loves Raymond. Heath Ledger is Sonny Grotowski, Thornton’s son, a third-generation corrections officer who never lives up to the family’s tough-guy standards and dares to have black friends. Hank and Sonny are part of an execution team assigned to Lawrence Musgrove, a cop-killer skillfully portrayed by Sean Combs, whose impressive performance suggests that his acting career may have as much earning potential as P. Diddy’s current line of work.

Thornton’s portrayal of Grotowski is flawless—his best since 1996’s Sling Blade—and helps one forget such disappointments as 1998’s A Simple Plan. He becomes Hank and leaves no trace of Billy Bob on the screen. Grotowski’s dialogue is limited and purposely lacks profundity, forcing Thornton to convey meaning through action. When Hank descends his front porch to meet his son’s two black friends with a shotgun, his simple dialogue is directed to Sonny: “Tell them to get off my property.” Thornton delivers the line with both contempt and regret. His tone, as well his reluctance to look directly at the young boys, suggests that he recognizes the racism in his actions but forces himself to proceed. Such inner conflict could never have been conveyed by the dialogue alone. Thornton’s ability to communicate emotion helps the audience understand Grotowski’s struggles with his son, his father, and his own identity, after a tragic event alters both his perception of the world and the course of his life.

Ledger is static in contrast, partly by fault of writers Milo Addica and Will Rokos. Sonny Grotowski lacks depth and creates unanswerable questions. The family’s black sheep chokes during his first execution, but we are never given any indication as to why this occurs. Nor are we given any suggestion as to why Hank admittedly hates his son. Poor character development leaves little room for Ledger to shine.

Enter Halle Berry. As Leticia Musgrove, Lawrence’s wife, Berry delivers her most outstanding performance since 1999’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Her appearance is altered drastically for her role as a single black mother in a racist community, yet her natural charisma immediately draws us into Leticia’s predicament. In contrast to Ledger’s Sonny, Berry’s Musgrove is given noteworthy dialogue that manages to enhance a plot that is otherwise in disarray. “I’m only here so you can say goodbye to your son,” Leticia says in response to Lawrence’s attempts to be affectionate on the day of his execution. Berry delivers more than just a line; she delivers an entire performance. Her words are cold, quick and desperate, and her actions are both nonchalant and nerve-racking. Her hand’s slight tremor as she puffs on her cigarette effectively illustrates her inner turmoil and uncertainty about the future. Berry proves herself worthy of her Best Actress Academy Award as she fights to retain her job, her house, her son and her sanity against impossible tragedies.

The film’s themes of racial hatred, career failure, and self-blame are recognizable but underdeveloped. Thornton’s character is clearly racist at the film’s opening when he forces Sonny’s two black friends off his property. Soon after, he is naming his newly-purchased gas station after the black woman (Leticia) he is dating. Grotowski’s sudden attitude change with regard to race is just as inexplicable and unsatisfying as the abrupt disappearance of his feelings of failure. Hank places himself at fault for many of the film’s predictable plot twists as well, but he abandons these feelings in an off-screen moment of enlightenment that creates yet another deep fissure in the story.

Monster’s Ball also tries to establish a bond between Thornton’s Grotowski and Berry’s Musgrove (whose on-screen chemistry is mediocre at best) through their sons, Sonny and Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun), but the bond is not fully explored, nor is it a gratifying explanation for their sudden love affair. Writers Addica and Rokos seem to have given themselves a second chance at a bond based on Grotowski’s integral role in making Leticia a widow, but they fail to successfully develop this option as well, leaving the audience trying to cope with one too many leaks in the holey plotline.

Aesthetically, the film never falters. Forster and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer skillfully capture the essence of each scene. They use lingering shots of burning cigarettes, empty rooms, and photographs to create dramatic pauses. Such breaks allow the audience to absorb the action it has just witnessed and to regroup for another emotionally harrowing sequence.

Matt Chesse’s editing is at its best during the first 45 minutes of Monster’s Ball—the best 45 minutes of the entire film—when the “monster” himself, Lawrence Musgrove, is awaiting death. Chesse creates depth and parallelism between Lawrence and Leticia, bouncing back and forth between the activities on death row and in Leticia’s home. The scene is reminiscent of Dead Man Walking, but Combs’ Musgrove is a welcome departure from Sean Penn’s Matthew Poncelet in that Musgrove accepts his fate and doesn’t fight death. This allows him to be fully effective in conveying what is the film’s best line of dialogue as well as its main theme: “It truly takes a human being to really see a human being.”

Monster’s Ball had the potential to be a gripping tale of love lost and love found, but that potential is lost in a sea of subplots that drowns the main narrative. Forster is left with a film that is little more than a star vehicle for Berry’s and Thornton’s most compelling performances to date.