Monster is a stunning piece of Hollywood fiction based on the life of a notorious serial killer. It is intriguing and entrapping due to Charlize Theron’s remarkable tranformation.
The film takes a sympathetic approach to the life of Aileen Wuornos by portraying her as a victim killing in self-defense and progressing into dark pleasure rather than a cold-blooded murderer. Patty Jenkins’ directorial debut beautifully captures all the murderous acts in a graphic and honest light. The film focuses mostly on Wuornos’ latter life and how the person she trusted turned against her.
Theron changes herself from a movie star Barbie doll such as her role in The Italian Job, into an actress of both great depth and incredible promise. Theron takes a chance with a role that could’ve been a major embarrassment, turning it into 2003’s most unexpected evolution. Now, critics are buzzing about a good Theron performance for once. Christina Ricci is also amazingly good as Wuornos’ love interest, Selby, but is completely overshadowed by Theron.
Ricci is a presence in the film and deserves praise for her honestly disturbed performance. Her chemistry with Theron is electric. The two actresses play well off each other, adding another layer of believability to their characters and turning Monster from just a biopic into a bitter portrayal of love, abuse and murder.
The film starts with a collection of images from Wuornos’ childhood, but breezes past a vast majority of facts to show Aileen as a menacing streetwalker. She soon lands on the receiving end of a man’s abusive advances. An act of self-defense becomes the tip of the iceberg, as all the anger inside makes every man from then on a possible target of Aileen’s rage. After the altercation and new-found attention of Selby, Aileen tries to be good. But when she’s unable to sustain work, old habits return to haunt her.
Whether Wuornos was a battered prostitute or a remorseless killer is a matter of a much-heated debate. But the film clearly picks its side of the fence, proudly showing her as a decent human being corrupted by society. Monster is not a film oozing with facts, but is instead a source of unrelenting Hollywood entertainment. Those looking for the truth about Aileen will find it in Nick Broomfield’s documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer.
Jenkins’ choice to show Wuornos as the film’s ultimate victim might seem appalling in response to her completely emotionless appearances in court and her continuous slaughters of partially innocent men. But solid transitions and a well-written screenplay make Monster hard to resist or dismiss.
Monster is kept afloat by concrete performances from its female leads that keep the movie interesting throughout periods of slow moving action. One sign that an actress has reached her peak is when her performance holds the film together through all its sluggish parts, still managing to engage audiences. Theron does this with ease.
Audiences and critics love to see when a gorgeous woman gets down and dirty, from Hilary Swank’s transformation into the opposite sex in Boys Don’t Cry to Nicole Kidman’s less than flattering role as Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Theron sheds all the superficial beauty, puts on the pounds and becomes nearly unrecognizable, which allows for her to explore Wuornos’ personality without the fear of scrutiny.
The film as a whole is an above average drama, but Theron’s performance is show-stopping and her 180-degree change will leave audiences breathless.
Drama, R, Running time: 110 min.
Pablo Saldana can be reached at email@example.com