Halle Berry: Swimming Beyond Her Depth Since 1993*.

Have you looked at Halle Berry’s filmography lately? Yeah, neither had we. But we decided to check it out in light of today’s Variety announcement that Berry has signed to star in Frankie and Alice, which they describe as a “psychological drama” about a woman with multiple personality disorder—and one of those personalities just happens to be a racist White woman.

Yeah. Because Halle is sooooo great at psychological dramas. Have you seen Gothika? No? How about Perfect Stranger? Things We Lost in the Fire**?

We’re gonna go with the rule of threes on this one. She’s made a trio of bad psychological dramas—the two former are absolutely horrid—so we just can’t see how this Frankie and Alice thing could possibly turn out well. Whoever’s responsible for making Halle Berry pretend that her alter-ego is a racist White woman should be courtmartialed for crimes against filmgoers everywhere.

Just imagine the hype and press that’ll surround this Frankie and Alice debacle: … And Halle Berry in Her Most Harrowing, Transformative Role Yet! Halle Berry Consults Boyfriend Gabriel Aubrey on White Race Politics in Prep for Racist White Role! Berry Worried Racist Characterization Would Offend White Relatives!

Let’s just say we’re really, really not looking forward to this.

But then, do we ever look forward to films that Halle Berry’s in anymore? The trailers alone tend to warn us away; it’s as if her performances are buzzing neon lights reading, “Watch at Your Risk.”

She’s pretty and well-lit, even when she’s supposed to look haggard and grief-stricken, and she’s no stranger to onscreen breast-baring and parlaying it into pre-release hype (see: Swordfish). These are her chief assets as an actress—and her ability to play really convincing criers and crackheads (see: Losing Isaiah, Jungle Fever).

But more often than not, she’s cast in roles much better black actresses would’ve prostrated themselves at the feet of directors for (see: Janie Starks in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Ororo Munroe/Storm in the X-Men trilogy, or any of the three biopics about groundbreaking Black women she’s scheduled to start shooting this year) and more often than not, she is wholly out of her depth when those cameras flicker on.

So we end up with a string of duds that far outweigh her shortlist of triumphs (Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, arguably Monster’s Ball, and maaaybe Queen, in addition to the aforementioned crier/crackhead flicks)… and we get decision-makers who offer her split personality films where she’s normal and nervous and Black on the one hand and a White supremacist on the other.

This is not a good trend. And it’s been going on for far too long. It’s time someone did something about it. We were hoping it might be Berry herself. In our minds, we envisioned her becoming so enrapt with motherhood and so satisfied with her “illustrious” career so far, that she’d retire “on top,” before the crow’s feet and the post-pregnancy breast-sagging diminished directors interest in objectifying her.

We really wanted her to quit her day job and stick to producing. She’s actually really good at that. With that Dandridge piece and Lackawanna Blues under her belt and Tulia and Class Act—two of the aforementioned biopics in which she’s starring–under her belt and that Oscar everyone gushes over, she’s paved her road toward a great new career behind the camera… if only she’d just stay back there and leave the split personalities to chicks who can actually pull them off (see: Taraji P. Henson in Common’s “Testify” video. We’re just sayin’. It’d be nice to have more concrete evidence on Henson’s behalf, but she’s never had the opportunity to play a role that meaty in a feature—unless you count the requisite hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold in Hustle and Flow. Wonder why? Oh, wait! Halle’s hogging all the split personality and angry insomniac widow roles!)

* 1993 marked the Berry’s first out-of-her-element performance in Alex Haley’s Queen. She wasn’t awful, by any means. In fact, we’re willing to concede that, back when she was a hungry actress-about-town, trying to make it big, she turned in much, much better work than she does now. But then, what does that mean when Natalie in Strictly Business and Angela in Boomerang are all you’re working with?

**Things We Lost in the Fire is actually a decent film—but it’s decent in spite of Halle’s contribution, not because of it. If Benicio Del Toro and those cute li’l biracial child actors hadn’t been involved, that project would’ve tanked. Oh, but never mind. It tanked anyway….


slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: http://stacialbrown.com and here: http://beyondbabymamas.com.
  • Tasha

    I actually saw Gothika. She did fine in Gothika.

  • Madame Zenobia

    Her movies as of late are too dark and deep and depressing. I STILL haven’t rented ‘Things We Lost in the Fire’ just because I’m not ready to freakin’ cry. And I love Benecio del Torio, by the way.

    Also haven’t seen Gothika and Perfect Stranger…..just not interested.

    So now she’s to star as a women with multiple personalities one of which is a racist white woman?

    NEO NED anyone? LOL.

  • universeexpanding

    I actually sat through Perfect Strangers recently and it just confirmed what I’ve thought since Monster’s Ball. Halle is just not convincing. Sorry. I wanted to be happy about her Oscar win and enjoy her performance – you know, a victory for black actresses blah de blah. But I just didn’t enjoy it. My brother said he regards her as the black Jessica Alba: cute, kinda curvy-ish but ultimately lacking in substance.

  • C’mon, give Halle a break. Darryl Hannah/Meg Ryan/Andie MacDowell/Penelope Cruz/Ashley Judd/Angelina Jolie have made careers out of acting beyond their depth. We should be allowed our one.

  • Each of Halle Berry’s films were very good — so don’t get it twisted.

    This is my first (and last) visit to this blog because it’s obvious what the writer is trying to do…

  • Honey

    @ UniverseExpanding,

    yeah. the universe IS expanding and this expansion is speeding up! ;D

  • quadmoniker

    Shawn L: I get your point, but I would beg to differ on a few of those. First, I’m not sure Darryl Hannah has a career. Second, Meg Ryan pretty much stuck to the cloyingly sweet, so I’m not so sure she made her career out of reaching beyond her depth even if she tried a few roles here and there. Lastly, just because the others are bad doesn’t make Halle any less bad. I mean, I think we can all agree, they’re all really pretty. . . .

    Jenny: What is the writer “trying” to do?

  • DrZRM

    quadmoniker, I offer in response to your Meg Ryan argument…”In the Cut.” I gotta agree with Shawn L, free Halle to make mediocre films, at least she’s not Scientologist yet. Have she and Will Smith starred in anything together yet?

  • I don’t personally feel as if Halle is a bad actress, but at the same time, I think there are scores of other black actresses (ok maybe 3) that can portray dramatic roles way better than she can. Halle, I think it’s time to produce and let another undervalued black actress grab one of those roles.

  • quadmoniker

    Well, “In the Cut” was a good example, but again, Meg was much older and was already solidified in stardom. Also, she’s never gotten an Oscar. The biggest omission here is Hilary Swank, Hilary Two-time-Oscar-winner-I’m-just-a-poor-girl-from-the-trailer-park Swank, who always manages miserable accents and got lucky once because she was broke and ended up in a really terrific, ground-breaking indie flick. Hilary and Halle, one and the same.

  • Big Word

    I beg to differ. Halle Berry is fine enough to get a pass from me. As far as I’m concerned they should give her moms an Oscar for givin birth to her. Stacey Dash, too.

  • Resee

    Wow. It sounds like the author of this article has more than just a problem with Halle’s movies. Sounds like it may be personal. I just don’t think that you should be so worried about Halle getting the “roles much better black actresses would’ve prostrated themselves at the feet of directors for”. I think she a pretty good actress and has made the best out of most scripts given to her. She’s making films that cross the board and identify her as an actress, not just a black actress. She’s transcended race in so many ways. So, instead of jumping down her throat, I think you should be congradulating Ms. Berry for coming outside the box that many black actresses seem unable to escape from.

  • Resee’s fan

    Well said, Resee. Well said.

    I agree with you 100% when you said, “… you should be congratulating Ms. Berry for coming outside the box that many black actresses seem unable to escape from.”

  • It’s personal? She sucks. A lot of people think she sucks.

    She isn’t the best black actress in Hollywood. Not by a long shot. she’s ‘acceptably black,’ which makes her the most bankable.

    but she’s a middling actress, at best.

  • Resee

    I am so tired of everyone talking about she’s ‘acceptably black’ and making it her fault that the world is the way it is. Judge society SEPERATELY – and thanks for understanding, Resee’s fan :-)

  • She does benefit from societal prejudices, whether it’s her fault or not.

    There are actresses of color more talented than she is. But they will never have her platform, because she gets roles that aren’t given to ‘black’ actresses.

  • kjen

    When going through periods of self-doubt about my talent it helps to think of others that perservered inspite of their lack of talent. I admire Berry for her work ethic as evidenced by her success. Oh yeah, there are certain prejudices that worked in her favor but overall she wasn’t the most talented or prettiest actresses, but she relentlessly pursued her dream…and so she is where she is.

  • rmf

    She is generally a terrible actress and I think you’re right, she should be confined to the role of sassy girlfriend lending support to lead character. Love that short haircut though, she works it. Can’t hate on that…

  • Pingback: Theories For Peer Review: The Pinkett-Berry Effect « PostBourgie()

  • Pingback: Theories For Peer Review: The Pinkett-Berry Effect « Entropy Inc.()

  • Pingback: A Brief Look at Halle Berry’s Janky Blaccent. « PostBourgie()