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Halle Berry: What the Halle Happened?

March 19, 2012

I recently wrote about the career curse Adrien Brody has suffered since kissing Halle Berry on Oscar night, 2002. Well, as it turned out, the hex worked on both sexes. Berry’s been in a creative freefall since Monster’s Ball, for which she had won Best Actress the year before, and she hits the rock bottom of the ocean floor with Dark Tide, the murky shark-attack “thriller” that just quietly debuted on Video On Demand before its upcoming token theatrical release.

What could’ve possibly possessed Berry to play a shark expert who suffers a devastating tragedy but is coaxed back on the job just when she thinks it’s safe to go back in the water? Surely, not the opportunity to work with hack director John Rockwell, who completes the babes-in-bikinis trilogy he started with Blue Crush and Into the Blue. Perhaps it was the chance to take a South African maritime vacation with her now-fiancé, Olivier Martinez (Unfaithful), who costars as a documentarian along for the trip. In any case, making Dark Tide was the worst shark-related decision by an Oscar-winner since Michael Caine skipped the 1987 ceremony when he won Best Supporting Actor for Hannah and Her Sisters so he could film Jaws: The Revenge.

It’s a terrible movie, and Berry gives a terrible performance in it. The trailer’s tag line, “Hold…Your…Breath,” is only appropriate because the film stinks like a bucket of week-old chum. And it’s only the most recent example of how the actress is getting devoured in her attempt to swim with the Hollywood sharks. She showed such promise early in her career, even before her emotionally and physically revealing performance in Monster’s Ball; check out her incendiary turn as Samuel L. Jackson’s crack-addict girlfriend in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever or her Emmy-winning work as a trailblazing African-American movie star in HBO’s Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. But at times she also showed a shocking lack of taste, choosing godawful projects like The Last Boy Scout, The Rich Man’s Wife and B*A*P*S.

Purr-fectly awful: Halle Berry as Catwoman

Perhaps those were the best roles she could get at the time, but the combination of the box-office smashes X-Men (in which she played Storm), Die Another Day (in which she played a Bond girl) and Swordfish (in which she played bare breasts) and the artistic triumph of Monster’s Ball should’ve opened up greater opportunities. If so, she didn’t take them, instead opting for a mix of big-budget shlock like Catwoman, low-rent thrillers like Perfect Stranger (which reteamed her with Last Boy Scout‘s Bruce Willis) and Gothika and desperately depressing misfires like Frankie & Alice and Things We Lost in the Fire.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better anytime soon. Hot on the heels of her appearance in Garry Marshall’s critically reviled New Year’s Eve (which I refused to see), she’ll star in next year’s horrific-sounding Confessions of a Shoe Addict. But before that, she’ll costar with Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant in the wildly ambitious Cloud Atlas, codirected by Run Lola Run‘s Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis. With a $100 million-plus budget and a six-part story structure spanning several centuries, it’ll either be a masterpiece or a fiasco. If it’s the former, maybe one of Berry’s typically painful lines from Dark Tide will prove true: “The funny thing about memories is you remember the good ones and forget the shitty ones.”

Can Halle Berry’s career be saved, and if so, how? Post a comment!

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