Halle Berry became the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in director Marc Forster’s Southern gothic melodrama. Hank Grotowski (Billy Bob Thornton), a vehement racist whose wife committed suicide some years ago, works as a corrections officer at a Louisiana prison. No one feels the sting of Hank’s seething bitterness more than his own son (Heath Ledger), whose own self-loathing reaches the point of no return when he follows in his mother’s footsteps after his father admits his lifelong hatred for him; this sudden tragedy prompts a turning point in Hank’s life as he strikes up a completely unexpected romance with the struggling widow (Berry) of the last prisoner he executed (Sean Combs), much to the chagrin of his ailing yet even more despicable father (Peter Boyle). Milo Addica and Will Rokos received an Oscar nomination for their original screenplay; the title of the film comes from a medieval English custom of jailers serving a farewell feast to prisoners awaiting execution, who were referred to as “monsters.” – IFC Staff