Earlier this summer, Halle Berry downplayed her greatest achievement as an actor.
Speaking at a panel at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June, Berry addressed the 2016 Oscar nominations, which were widely criticized for their lack of diversity, and while doing so, she shooed away the significance of her 2002 Oscar win as best actress for her role in Monster’s Ball.
“I sat there and I really thought, ‘Wow, that moment really meant nothing. It meant nothing. I thought it meant something, but I think it meant nothing,’” Berry explained.
Berry’s frustration is understandable, but hearing her say this was disappointing. No matter how irritating the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences proves itself to be in a given year, the fact that Berry became the first black woman to win an Academy Award for best actress will always be a significant win. Berry should be proud of what she achieved and never make her accomplishment sound smaller than what it is.
Although Berry did describe the ongoing lack of inclusion as “hurtful,” she said she did learn a lesson from it:
It inspired me to try to get involved in other ways, which is why I want to start directing. I want to start producing more. I want to start making more opportunities for people of color. I have conversations more deeply with academy members, and I’m trying to figure out how to help and add more diversity to the academy.
Berry should be producing more, regardless of whether any project she works on catches the attention of the academy. However, if her latest release, Kidnap, is any indication, maybe someone could advise her with respect to direction. Indeed, in a recent interview promoting Kidnap, she suggested that she would like to be making more movies just like it.
Speaking with AMC Theaters, Berry said of the film:
These are the kind of movies I want to produce. They’re empowering. They’re exciting. They’re empowering. They have a message to them at the same time, and I think these are the types of movies audiences want to engage with and have feelings about.
Please reconsider, Ms. Berry. Whenever I see an advertisement for Kidnap, I let out the kind of sigh I typically offer only when they tell me they ran out of spicy at Popeyes. My follow-up is the feeling that I have already seen this movie. From the looks of the box-office results, many at home either felt the same or looked away altogether.
The film made $10.2 million in its opening weekend, and according to Variety, the distributor, Aviron, which acquired the film from the bankrupt Relativity, “declined to release the thriller’s acquisition cost, making it difficult to judge its performance.” Company officials likely declined to share such intel because they wanted to take their L in solitude.
Writing about the film and Berry’s career at the Daily Beast, Ira Madison noted that Berry was “essentially playing the classic role of a white woman in distress.” Although this film was originally set for release years ago, it is not lost on me that Kidnap was released around the same time as the 25th anniversary of the release of Boomerang.
Boomerang is my all-time favorite film, and Berry played as pivotal a role in making it so as everyone else in the incredibly talented cast. I loved the movie as a child because nothing else made me laugh like that. As an adult, I appreciate it more now because it was a smart, well-written comedy featuring black people being black as hell without having to center white people in any way.
This was also during the era in which Berry starred in other movies like Jungle Fever, Losing Isaiah and, hell, even B.A.P.S. What happened to Berry making films like those? It’s great that Berry can play a role that is typically assigned to white actresses, but Kidnap registers as cheap, uninspired and beneath Berry.
Berry’s initial rise came at a time of a plethora of quality black films and television not seen since, well, now. Why not capitalize on that? Why not return to something that speaks more to who she is? Wouldn’t those films be more commanding of our attention and be authentic to her?
With Kidnap, it’s as if she’s lending her star power to someone’s leftovers. I want better, blacker, more interesting roles for Halle Berry. I’m not sure what ever came of prospective projects like the biopic about the jewel thief Doris Payne, but can we do a group prayer or a GoFundMe for that to happen?
Halle Berry: I love thee, but in the future, know this: Your Oscar win was meaningful; nothing can diminish that. And as for the Oscars’ continuing struggle with inclusion inspiring you to produce more, for future projects, if a role comes across as the cinematic equivalent of a hood grocery store getting the scraps from the stores in the white neighborhoods, give it a hard pass. Just bet on black, beloved.