Halle Berry, in one form or another, has fought her entire life, whether for coveted roles in the movies, on behalf of victims of domestic violence like herself, or against the perception that her physical beauty has isolated her from the crowd. struggle, she has always considered herself an outsider. And now, in her first film as a director, she has also presented herself as such.
In "Contused (premieres in theaters November 17th before moving to Netflix a week later), Berry plays Jackie Justice, a humiliated mixed martial arts fighter desperate to make a comeback. This is her most physically demanding role: now 55, she had to train four to six hours a day to learn boxing, Muay Thai, judo and jujitsu, as well as to hone her skills. in capoeira that she used in "Catwoman ".
Then, she spent the rest of the day in director mode: scouting places in Newark, crafting a storyline initially centered around a white Irish Catholic woman in her twenties, blocking out elaborate fight scenes and collaborating with her castintergenerational ion of actors. For any beginning filmmaker, this combination alone is a feat.
Yet with Justice, Berry plays one of his most complicated characters: in Besides being a former MMA champion, Jackie is a middle-aged black mom who struggles to care for her 6-year-old son, Manny (Danny Boyd Jr.), after abandoning him while 'he was a baby.
"I figured out who this Jackie Justice character was and where she came from," Berry said during the a video call while he was sitting in the backyard of the Los Angeles home. And after waiting six months for Blake Lively (who had initially managed to play the role) to decide - she ultimately refused - Berry aggressively pursued the role. Image
Berry is working on the mealteau with cinematographer Frank DeMarco. Credit ... John Baer / Netflix
"I loved it because fighting is something I know so much on a personal and professional level. I understand what it's like to fight and not be heard, ”Berry said. "I understand the trauma of life that makes you want to fight, need to fight, have to fight.
Not only did she win this round, but Netflix also seemed to be in its corner, paying over $ 20 million for the film, according to trade newspaper reports.
As she explained, "I understand being marginalized as a black woman and the anger, resentment, fear and frustration that comes with it all. If I could put it all in this movie, all of the things I know if well, so i knew i could create a character that would not only be real, but also resonate with women of different races. "
It's true that Jackie's mere presence on the screen offers a counter-narrative to the male-dominated heroism of most boxing films, but the film's emphasis on motherhood also gave Berry the chance to make another Hollywood statement: Jackie's Redemptive Bow actively reimagines the fates of Berry's most iconic characters as well as his newer, but lesser-known films.
Drug addict mother: " Losing Isaiah .” Mourning mother: " Monster 's Ball . Mysteriously-infused-with-astronaut-combat-to-save-her-new-hybrid-mother-child-species: the TV series " Extant . "Waitress became vigilant after the kidnapping of her child: Kidnap . ” Raising-eight-black-children-in-home-during-the-riots-in-Los-Angeles: " Kings .” And these are notthan the ones I remember.
What sets Jackie apart, of course, is that she is a true fighter. And for Berry, this fact, when linked to the maternal motivation of her character, made the role more nuanced and original for her. The actress had started our conversation worried about sending her two children to school and now explained that Jackie is doing the unthinkable, which is leaving her child for no real reason on the job. paper, but emotionally she couldn't stay and be a mother. ”
This act followed Justice into the ring, even causing her to lose a title fight when she asked to come out of the fight cage. As Berry explained, Jackie had so many scars "that the fear and guilt came straight to her in her next fight, and she didn't could do it. She couldn't face it. She wasn't the fighter she was anymoreformerly. " Image "I get really frustrated when people think because I look a certain way that I haven't had any of those real life experiences because I 'I relatively have it,' Berry said. Credit ... Adrienne Raquel for Hfrance.fr
To prepare for the role, Berry did not not only watched fights (she's been a lifelong boxing fan) but also asked female MMA fighters why they chose the sport. are fighting for very different reasons, ”Berry said. “Often, men fight for a career to take care of their family, to be the breadwinner, to get out of poverty. And the fwomen often struggle to regain their voices. "
She added:" Because a lot of them were abused in one way or another during their early years. years, fighting has become their only way to regain their self-esteem and power, and safety in the world. "
When I asked to Berry if her decision The Mission to Lead was part of her own journey to controlling how she appeared onscreen rather than being subject to the whims of an industry that, until recently, had Often relegated middle-aged women, let alone black women, to supporting roles, she paused. I asked her if she needed a moment to reflect on the twists and turns of a career that saw her be the first black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress (the "Monster 's Ball " of 2001) and a Razzie ofthe worst actress ( "Catwoman " in 2004).
"We have all been spooned versions of who we are, but not by us same "said Berry. "It’s the feeling of power that I’m talking about. I feel powerful just because I can do it and put my voice in the world one way or another, and my sensitivity as a black woman there. "
Two of the scenes, in particular, stood out in which Berry not just referred to his past films, but also clearly revised the traditional male gaze. At first, an argument between en Jackie and her partner and manager, Desi (Adan Canto), leads to sex, and their intensity and roughness reminded me of the moment in "Monster 's Ball " when his character, Leticia Musgrove, and Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton) engage in an equally desperate and violent form of connection.d ", however, this scene is not as climactic, but rather interrupted and interrupted by the bigger story in which Jackie's son returns.
Later, we realize that the meeting between Jackie and Desi was also there to contrast with the more amorous exchange between Jackie and her new trainer, Bobbi "Buddhakan " Berroa (Sheila Atim). Not only does Berry direct the camera to get her close and lingering on the women's caresses on each other's bodies, but the passion is cathartic and truly healing for both. Image The co- Berry star Sheila Atim said that "the wealth of experience as an actress helped fuel her instincts as a director. It helped "that she understood the storytelling so well. Credit ... Adrienne Raquel for Hfrance.fr
To play Jackie 's morphosis, Berry has totally transformed. Her eyes are constantly swollen, her lips are bleeding and she is wearing baggy pants and braids without a hint of glamor.
When I told Berry that the Her character appearance reminded me of Brad Pitt's disfigurement at the end of "Fight Club" she pushed back, then I realized my gaze could also be distorted by preconceptions about her and his career. In other words, she wanted to play Jackie because she saw parts of herself - past and present - in her story and her struggle for more.
" It's another battle, I've fought my whole life. It's because I look a certain fas I was spared any hardship. I have had losses and pain and a lot of injuries in my life. I have been abused in my life "she recalls, referring, among other things, to domestic violence in relationships which she spoke about in the past. "I get really frustrated when people think because I have a certain appearance that I haven't had any of these real-life experiences because I relatively have.
She added: "This did not spare me a heartache or a moment of fear or tears, trust me.
Atim said that she believed that "Halle 's wealth of experience as an actress helped fuel her directorial instincts. But in the end, it also mattered, Atim said, that sheunderstands storytelling so well ".
The result is a portrait of black femininity that is both broad and enriching, for Jackie, and ultimately for the public too of Berry. "We haven't seen an African-American woman that way in a movie," said Berry. "I'm from Cleveland, Ohio. I am the salt of the earth, it is a world that I know and that is intrinsic to who I am. "
In others terms, a movie worth fighting for. "If I have to tell a story, I will do it from a point of view that I know, " she said. thought this was a great way to start. "