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Monster - Preview & US reaction



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 Theron’s 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 America’s first female serial killer -and the media’s 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 her homosexuality.

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 talent.
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.

US reaction

Critics were virtually unanimous in their praise for Theron’s blistering turn, even though some found the film itself very heavy going.

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 acts'.

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.


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