Set in the Southern United States, ‘Monster’s Ball’ is a tale of a racist white man, Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), who falls in love with a black woman named Leticia Musgrove (Halle Berry). Ironically Hank is a prison guard working on Death Row who executed Leticia’s husband, convicted murderer Lawrence Musgrove (Sean Combs). Hank and Leticia’s interracial affair leads to confusion and new ideas for the two unlikely lovers.
Hank, a widower, and his son, Sonny (Heath Ledger), are corrections officers in the Jackson, Georgia state prison. They reside nearby with Hank’s ailing father, Buck (Peter Boyle), an unwavering racist whose wife committed suicide. Hank’s hateful attitude toward others, strongly influenced by his father, extends to his son, and members of the neighboring community.
As Hank and Sonny assist in the execution of Lawrence Musgrove, the proceedings prove too intense for Sonny, who collapses and then begins to vomit as he is leading Lawrence to the electric chair. Hank beats up Sonny in the jail’s bathroom afterwards for being too “soft”. Some time later, Hank drags Sonny out of bed and tells him to get out of the house.
During the years of Lawrence’s imprisonment, his wife, Leticia (Halle Berry), has been struggling while raising their son, Tyrell (Coronji Calhoun). Along with her domestic problems, Leticia struggles financially, leading to the loss of the family car and, worse, an eviction notice on her house. In desperate need of money, Leticia takes a job at a diner frequented by Hank.
One rainy night, Leticia and Tyrell are walking down a soaked highway when Tyrell is struck by a car. Hank happens to be driving along and sees Leticia and Tyrell. He initially drives past, like the cars before him, but then turns around, picks Leticia and Tyrell up, and takes them to a hospital.
A few days later, Hank gives Leticia a ride home from the diner and after they begin talking in the car and discover the common loss of their sons and spouses, she invites him in and they drown their grief with alcohol. They begin a relationship initially based on sex and relief from loneliness but which later becomes emotionally supportive. Hank finds out that Leticia is Lawrence’s widow, but he does not tell her that he participated in her husband’s execution.
Director: Marc Forster
Year of Release: 2002
Character to watch: Halle Berry as Leticia Musgrove.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differenty if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?