Preview by: Jack Foley
AS THE Oscar contenders arrive thick and fast in America, in
the approach to the festive season, one hot tip for an awards-winner
is Charlize Therons latest, Monster.
In what is described as a revelatory performance,
the screen beauty stars as Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute executed,
last year, in Florida after being convicted of murdering six men.
The performance has had many US critics predicting Oscar glory,
and is said to mark one of the most radical transformations of
any actress in history; and while the subject matter is treated
in a gritty, unflinching manner, there is also a tragic element
to the real-life tale.
Wuornos may have confessed to all six murders, including a policeman,
but she also maintained that she killed only in self-defence,
resisting violent assaults while working as a prostitute.
The film also bravely burrows beneath the tabloid headlines,
about Americas first female serial killer -and the medias
sordid designation of Wuornos as an unrepentant monster - to unearth
an unlikely love story between two misfits.
The film co-stars Christina Ricci, as Selby Wall, a suicidal
misfit, who has been sent to live with her aunt in order to cure
Wuornos - herself a victim of an abusive upbringing - quickly
falls in love, and clings to Selby like a life preserver.
Unable to find a legitimate job but desperate to sustain her
relationship with Selby, Wuornos continues working as a prostitute,
and it is only when one of her clients turns violent, that she
shoots the man in self-defence; to spark her string of killings.
Monster is the work of first-time writer-director, Patty Jenkins,
and is being hailed as another strong debut from a promising new
Shot in many of the actual locations where Wuornos committed her
crimes, between 1989-90, it has also provoked comparisons with
the iconoclastic American films of the 60s and 70s.
The publicity materials further describe it as a searing
social commentary, road movie, and, most profoundly, a love story.
The film was due for a Christmas Eve release in America.
Critics were virtually unanimous in their praise for Therons
blistering turn, even though some found the film itself very heavy
The Hollywood Reporter observed that, yes, the story
is an ugly one, but the actresses command our attention and demand
we confront this unrepentant monster to examine her
humanity, while Ebert and Roeper described it, simply,
as an amazing piece of work.
Film Journal International noted that it is Charlize Theron,
much heavier than her normal weight, dispensing with the last
shred of glamour and looking like a mirror image of Wuornos, who
provides an Academy Award-caliber take on one of the most sorrowful
women of our time.
While the New York Magazine wrote that Theron breaks
through with a ferocious performance - a real career-changer.
LA Weekly, meanwhile, wrote that Wuornos was a far
more complex creature than most accounts of her will allow, and
Patty Jenkins' tough and tender movie has caught the contradictions
of a woman stranded between unwarranted hope and unavoidable despair.
Also raving was Variety, which opined that 'the drama's
uncompromising nature and, above all, Charlize Theron's powerful,
physically astonishing performance should attract the kind of
critical attention necessary to mine the specialized niche'.
The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, wrote that 'heavier,
with bad teeth and blotchy skin, Theron is nearly unrecognizable
in the role. She's also astonishingly good'.
And the New York Post noted that 'Jenkins doesn't stint
on the sickening reality of Wuornos' abhorrent behavior - it's
Theron's complex, deeply felt depiction of a thoroughly messed-up
soul that forces us to look beyond the monstrous nature of her
Theron wins the plaudits from Entertainment Weekly, too,
which wrote that she 'plays an unredeemable woman with uncompromising
reality. That's a powerful accomplishment, even if Monster never
quite figures out what to do with it'.
And the New York Daily News noted that 'it will be hard
to lure audiences to this downer, but its acute understanding
of such a monster's misery furthers our comprehension of how and
why human atrocities occur'.
The movie is due to open in the UK in 2004.