Halle Berry is really a phenomenal actress, especially when pushed to her artistic limits. Even when often widely regarded as too beautiful to play certain roles, her Oscar for her role in Monster's Ball served as confirmation of her talent.
So what is my point? Monster's Ball was on television today, and I happened to flip across it just as it was beginning. I saw it once years ago when it first came to DVD, and I remember being impressed with Halle's performance. But I never really got her character. I mean, I understood that she was sad - having lost her husband on death row and her son in a hit-and-run accident. I got that. She was sad. Ok. Good job being sad, Halle.
As I watched the movie today, I joked with Tokii that this was the perfect movie to watch if you ever want to feel better about your own life. "Wow," I said, "I really feel depressed." But as the movie ends, Halle's character realizes that there is a connection between her executed husband, Billy Bob's character, both of their dead sons, and her. After an emotional outburst, of which Billy Bob Thorton is unaware because he is out making a midnight run for ice cream, he returns to his home to find Halle bewildered and subdued. He leads her outside to sit on the back stoop and eat the ice cream he had bought. And when he feeds her a small spoonful of ice cream, there is a look in her eyes that I instantly recognized beyond the point of empathy.
At the risk of sounding corny and borderline psycho, I totally got her character in a way that I didn't get it when I first saw the movie years ago. I knew the exact feeling that Halle is trying to convey. The relief her character feels.
She was disconnected from Diddy's character by prison. I had been disconnected from Rickey by our break-up the previous year, our struggling attempts to figure out how to be just friends, and elements that would eventually lead to his death. Terrence was like Billy Bob Thorton's character after Rickey died. And Halle was able to sum up in one brief look over a spoon of ice cream, the relief that a desperate mourner - in the months following a tragic loss - feels like they will never have. It's a struggle for relief that only one who has been in a similar situation knows. I distinctly remember the moments in which Terrence provided me with similar relief by just a touch of the hand or a kiss on the forehead - even as close loved ones wondered if I was allowing Terrence to temporarily fill the void left by Rickey's sudden, tragic death.
The relief wasn't a replacement for Rickey and it never will be. There is a part of me that will always hold tight to him - just like all of us hold onto elements of our past that influence and impact who we are and who we become. And the relationship that developed out of my friendship with Terrence was not falsely predicated on a temporary need to fill a void because our closeness has grown beyond the long, hard year following August 2003.
I don't know much about Halle's personal life or about the emotions on which she drew inspiration for that role, but my point is that that's a good actor when he or she can not only project feelings with which others might be able to empathize - but within a minor expression - can portray feelings that others actually know and immediately recognize beyond just common empathy. It's even more impressive if that actor has never actually felt those feelings in real life for themselves.
I don't know if the connection between me, Terrence and Rickey has any symbolic value like the connection uncovered in Monster's Ball. And though art often tries to imitate life, I am not quick to fall for "everything happens for a reason" whims. I am more of a "shit happens" kind of girl. But shit happened at the right place and time for my friendship with Terrence. I like to feel like Rickey had something to do with that.