An odd duck of a movie, but one I rather liked. It starts out as a tragedy and ends up as a comedy. David Duchovny plays an affluent Seattle developer who dies suddenly, leaving a widow (Halle Berry), two cute kids with amazing hair, and a best friend from childhood (Benicio Del Toro) who is a lawyer turned fulltime heroin junkie, whom the widow despises. It's like a lighter, more watchable version of "21 Grams," which starred Del Toro, Sean Penn, and Naomi Woods.
Mostly because she doesn't have anything else to do, the widow Halle invites Benicio to move into the garage, and she tries to get him to go to his NarcAnon meetings. The bald, fat, rich white guy next door helps Benicio get a job because it will piss off his insufferable, status-climbing wife. By the end, Benicio has passed the mortgage broker test and gotten a new girlfriend (Alison Lohman, who still looks like the 14-year-old she played in "Matchstick Men"), but he still has this dream of perfect happiness: having a needle full of junk in one hand and the money for his next score in the other.
Obviously, in real life, recovering heroin junkies are not welcomed into upscale neighborhoods, but the Danish lady director Susanne Bier, making her first American film, gives the impression that she's perfectly aware that charming Benicio and gorgeous Halle aren't real people, they're Hollywood movie stars! There's an early scene where Duchovny and Del Toro talk about how beautiful Berry's character is, which is unusual in movies: we're usually supposed to assume that the ultra-good looking star is a just plucky underdog fighting against all odds.) So, the film has this strange conditional realism: this is what could happen to a heroin addict if he was as lovable as Benicio Del Toro.
I think I've finally figured out the Halle Berry question: How exactly is she both a (not undeserving) Oscar winner for "Monster's Ball" and notoriously bland in superhero films like "X-Men" and "Cat Woman?" Here, her acting starts out strongly in the emotionally-charged scenes at the beginning, but then, as things settle down in the plot, she loses screen presence. She's still easy on the eyes, but by the second half of the movie you're done marveling over how petite her chin is (Can she eat steak with that little jaw?) and there's not much else going on with her.
In other words, she's good at the big, hard stuff (like grieving over her slain husband), but not at the little things. She's like an Olympic figure skater who nails her triple toe-loops but doesn't do anything interesting in-between the jumps, like 1998 winner Tara Lipinski or Tonya Harding, in contrast to, say, Katarina Witt (1984-88) who couldn't do triple jumps, but was a dream of feminine charisma when she was just skating around. With Halle, though, it's confusing; because she's so pretty, you expect her to be good at being ingratiating but not at the big tragic emoting, when, in fact, her skills are the reverse.
So, Halle was quite good in a fairly short role in the lurid melodrama "Monster's Ball" playing the operatically absurd role of a widow who falls in love with the prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton) who executed her husband (Puff Daddy), but she's lousy in a comic book movie where only charisma is required.