Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Charlize Theron,
director Patty Jenkins and producer Clark Peterson; Monster; The
Vision and The Journey (25 minute making of documentary with optional
commentary by Patty Jenkins); The Making of a Monster (22 minute
documentary); Deleted and extended scenes (with optional commentary
by Patty Jenkins); Filmmaking Demo (create your own scene using
dialogue or music or effects); Interview with Patty Jenkins and
composer BT; Theatrical trailers.
THE story of Aileen Wuornos, Americas first female serial
killer, has already been told in documentary form, by Nick Broomfield,
but now serves to provide a revelatory performance from Charlize
Theron, who was rightly named best actress at this years
Not since Robert De Niro played Jake LaMotta has there been quite
such a radical transformation of a star, yet Theron literally
inhabits the role of Wuornos, getting beneath her skin to present
an emotional portrayal of the prostitute-turned-killer.
Wuornos was executed in 2003 for the murder of six middle-aged
men, between 1989 and 1990, whom she lured to secluded areas in
order to take their belongings. Yet her motives remain unclear,
as her testimony changed so many times throughout her trial and
subsequent hearings, during which she often claimed she had acted
Broomfields documentaries concerned themselves with the
facts surrounding the case, but Monster, while touching on them,
takes the form of an imagined account of the days leading up to
the capture of the killer.
Written and directed by Patty Jenkins, it seeks to present Wuornos
in a more three-dimensional light than the man-hater depicted
in many of her headlines.
As Jenkins states: "I wanted to be very clear about the
fact that she did some very horrible things and that she knew
that she had done these horrible things, and not to tell the story
of a glorified serial killer, but rather to service the greater
truth, which was that this person - who was an incredible victim
in so many ways - became the problem in other ways and killed
innocent people and ruined peoples lives."
Theron, for her part, succeeds in realising these aims, turning
in a frank and frequently graphic portrayal of a woman driven
to commit the crimes she did, for love.
When first introduced to Therons
Wuornos, she is a desperate woman, contemplating suicide, until
a chance meeting with Christina Riccis isolated lesbian,
Selby Wall, in a bar, unlocks feelings that she never knew existed.
In spite of her misgivings, Wuornos falls in love with Selby
and clings to her like a life preserver, vowing to change her
ways and give up hooking, in order to provide a better
life for them both.
But when one of her johns turns violent, she is forced
to kill him, as much out of desperation to see Selby again, as
through violent rage, and subsequently resorts to increasingly
desperate measures to provide that better existence.
The ensuing character-study is as heart-breaking as it is sordid
and violent, with Theron providing a near-faultless display at
the heart of proceedings.
Not content with merely looking the part (she put on weight,
scrubbed herself free of glamorous make-up and wore false teeth),
Theron also taps in the possible psychology of her character,
expertly walking the line between the tragedy of her life and
predicament, and the horror she was capable of committing.
It is a tribute to her skills as an actress that audiences can
sympathise with her as much as they despise her, being able to
understand the reasons behind her actions, while never being able
to justify them.
Hence, when the time comes for Wuornos to say farewell to Selby,
at a bus stop at the peak of her desperation, the scene is packed
Likewise, she can be just as cold-bloodedly chilling, particularly
during scenes in which she mercilessly slays at least two of her
victims (one of whom turns out to be a policeman).
Theron is the driving force behind the movie and helps to make
it the absorbing experience that it is, consistently surprising
viewers with the intensity of her acting. It is a personal tour-de-force.
The film, itself, is shot in such a style as to recall the iconoclastic
American movies of the 60s and 70s, and seldom pulls its punches,
although some of the more deliberately kitsch romantic stuff,
involving Riccis character, feels a little awkward when
set against the realities of the world Wuornos inhabits.
The movie also comes close, on several occasions, to falling
into the trap it seeks to avoid, by sympathising a little too
much with Wuornos, despite refusing to touch on the deeper story
involving her having a child at 15, the mother who deserted her,
her physically abusive grandfather, and her history of stormy
rages, aliases, and robberies.
It is crucially important for audiences to realise that this
is, at the end of the day, an imagined account, although many
of the facts surrounding her arrest and confession are told as
authentically as possible.
As good as Monster is as a film, however, it only excels because
of Theron. She is the compelling reason for seeing it.