Films presents a film written and directed by Patty Jenkins.
Running time: 111 minutes. Rated R (for strong violence
and sexual content, and for pervasive language). Starring
Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern.
Theron is one of the most beautiful actresses in the country.
I had once heard her say that her looks held her back, and
I scoffed. After seeing Monster, a biopic about America's
"first female serial killer", Aileen Wuornos, I
no longer disbelieve that statement. I sure never
would have believed she had this in her. I don't know what
director Patty Jenkins saw in Theron that made her think she
(Theron) could do this, but whatever the reason, it was a
order to play Wuornos, Theron underwent the most amazing physical
change any actor has undergone since Robert De Niro in Raging
Bull, gaining nearly thirty pounds and donning unglamorous
make-up in order to look like Wournos. The change is astounding
- if you go into Monster without knowing that this
is Theron, you will not be able to figure it out until the
credits roll. But to focus on Theron's transformation is to
underplay the actual performance. Theron has completely inhabited
her character, facial expressions, body language, and all.
One gets the feeling that Theron stopped even paying attention
to the camera, and just began channelling her character completely.
There's not only no hint of Theron's beauty in Wuornos, there's
no trace of Theron at all. It's better than any performance
in 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000...oh, who am I kidding? This is,
simply, one of the best performances I've ever seen. Yeah,
ever. Twenty years from now, whether Theron has a great
acting career (and she should) or not, we will look at her
work here in the same way we look at the classic performances
of De Niro, Pacino, Nicholson, Brando, Streep, Hepburn, and
others. If she doesn't win the Oscar in February, it will
be proof positive that the Academy Awards are completely meaningless.
Wuornos was arrested in 1990 for the murdering of seven men,
and she spent twelve years on death row before being executed.
The movie opens with Aileen, a Florida prostitute, sitting
under a bridge, about to kill herself. In a last ditch effort
to find some reason to live, she walks into a nearby lesbian
bar to spend her last five dollars. In the bar, she meets
Selby (Christina Ricci, proving once again that she is not
afraid to take adult, difficult roles), a shy lesbian all
but disowned by her religious family. The two talk for a while,
and form a relationship. For Aileen, the relationship fulfills
her need to be loved by someone, anyone; for Selby,
it lets her feel like she belongs somewhere.
first killing is in self-defense. She is beat up by one of
her johns, tied up in his car, and about to be raped when
she frees herself and kills the man with the gun she was earlier
going to use to commit suicide. This frees something inside
her, and she decides to strike out against any men who attempt
to take advantage of her. The spree continues spiraling out
of control, until she kills a man who wants to help her, simply
because he sees her gun. Meanwhile, Selby becomes sort of
Aileen's enabler, pushing her to get new vehicles and more
film is disturbing, not because of the subject matter, but
because of the way Aileen is presented. We are told of the
difficulty of her life; from childhood, she has been abandoned
and alone. She is developed into a full, three-dimensional
character that has a little bit of our sympathy. The film
never asks us to forgive her acts, but it does ask us to consider
the conditions that she had to live through, and what caused
her to kill.
offers no easy answers, and it makes no attempt to defend
Aileen's actions, but it makes us see her as a human, rather
than the unfeeling monster of the title. If Aileen had ever
gotten a break in life, her acts would be inexcusable. But
she never got a chance. So we don't forgive her, but we do
2004 Matt Noller