Have I mentioned how I love Netflix? I walked out in the chilly breeze this afternoon to see what the postman brought, and he had brought two red envelopes. This was good timing, since there's no game tonight. (No baseball, that is. There was hockey, but now that's over until fall, just like basketball.) The two DVDs I got were Black Hawk Down and Monster's Ball, both of which I think were released just this Tuesday.
My random choice to watch first was Monster's Ball, which I didn't expect to like as much and in fact didn't like much at first. It seemed so cold-blooded and dreary, maybe the most unrelentingly sad movie I'd ever seen. I'm a sentimental guy, and I like romantic, emotional movies, but I found myself watching a story so unsentimental that it was as if a blanket of doom and gloom had dropped over my living room.
But you know what? I loved this movie. I loved the performances of Peter Boyle and Heath Ledger, plus Sean (no nickname in the credits, a wise choice) Combs. Halle Berry was amazing in an understated way and deserving of the Oscar I thought she stole from Nicole Kidman.
But it was Billy Bob Thornton who blew me away. How he could not even have been nominated for this movie or for The Man Who Wasn't There is beyond me. It's a complex character he portrays, and the conflicts play over his face in every scene. The amazingly improbable relationship at the center of the film never seems forced or strained, thanks to the two stars.
In the end, I had good reasons to like this film. It's consistent with my fondness for stories about family, and the changing relationships that cause the definition of "family" to evolve. In Monster's Ball, families are almost literally blown apart, but new ones, stronger ones, re-form from the debris. In the end, this makes it a compelling statement about the enduring power of hope in the world. We just have to be open to it.