Monster (2003)

Monster“Monster” is the biographical film and story of Aileen Wuornos, deemed the first female serial killer of Florida murdering five men from 1989 to 1990 who picked her up while she was a prostitute, attempting to get money without sex. Traumatized after being brutally attacked and raped, she no longer wanted to continue having sex for money and began killing the men who picked her up to support her lesbian girlfriend Selby. “Monster” is more of a tragedy than an actual biographical picture starring Charlize Theron who is basically stunning here transforming into the infamous serial killer who was executed on 2002. Theron is the most convincing actress to play Aileen Wuornos ever and really dives into the role of Wuornos. Here we witness not the birth of a monster, but the evolution of a monster, a woman who was always an outcast, always disliked, always abused, and always brought down, so inevitably she’s transformed into a ruthless killer.

Unlike the much hyped Nicole Kidman who received praise for sporting a simple prosthetic nose and being labeled as brave for starring in a pretty stale drama, Theron actually disappears in this character. She’s basically unrecognizable and here I had to keep reminding myself it was her. No disrespect to Kidman, she’s a brilliant actress and I’d marry her in a split second, but Theron who received a very much deserved best actress Oscar for in 2004 was truly deserved, because “Monster” is the full exposure of an actress who shows she’s not just a beautiful actress, but a beautiful actress who can actually act. Theron disappears in the makeup and extra weight she gained for this role completely transforming, and damnit, her acting is excellent. The story is more like a chronicle of Wuornos’ transformation along with her bittersweet narrating she uses to bring audiences into her mind.

We get the sense Wuornos doesn’t really fit in anywhere; her relationship with Selby is a rather rocky one as they meet one night at a gay bar Wuornos stumbles on accidentally, but they grow into friends as both are drawn to each other for their deep need for companionship. Both are really outsiders but tend to find one another despite being opposites and inevitably fall in love. Aileen craves acceptance in a world that’s really unwilling to accept her, but she does go about it all wrong. Sure, she’s not an innocent person, nor does the film really ask us to sympathize for her, but it asks that we understand her and where she’s coming from. She’s different despite eager attempts to socialize, but somehow Selby gives her a passage through. Selby can blossom if only Aileen would let her, and when she begins becoming accepted in a group, Aileen holds her back inadvertantly. Christina Ricci plays Selby the vulnerable and imprisoned girl who craves to be accepted as Aileen does.

An open homosexual who is experiencing troubles at home with parents who have basically disowned her, she sees no other option but to live a lie until she comes across Aileen. The two have great chemistry with one another and Selby seeking companionship tolerates Aileen’s crimes which creates more friction between them in their relationship. Halfway through the film, she’s working on the side of the road scrounging for money when picked up by a man (Lee Tergesen) who basically attacks her and ties her to the car. With a lot of rage she manages to escape the bounds and kill him in cold blood. Somehow her perception of men are marked through that one incident; being victimized by males throughout her life she sees each of them as basically the same man with an easy ride to quick cash, she shows very little sympathy and only seeks to gratify herself. She feels since she’s experienced a horrible life it’s okay for her to kill because she assumes god owes her, yet refuses to show guilt.

This is a woman who’s had nothing but bad luck and is eventually put over the edge, and if you witness any interviews she continues to approach her accounts without sympathy, because she feels by killing “John’s” she’s ultimately saved another hooker from being raped. Charlize Theron throws away everything that makes her Charlize Theron, and that’s rather difficult since she’s such a stone cold beauty, but it works and she pulls through with flying colors and a believable and stunning performance. This never really does seem to know where it’s heading with its story, and what its trying to bring across the audience, if anything. I was never sure if this was a demonstration of the psychology of a serial killer, or the tragedy and torment of a human being. Should we feel sorry for Aileen about her life? Of course, who wouldn’t but should we feel remorse about the murders she committed? I found it very hard to. It was never sure if it wanted to convey the story as a romance, a bio pic, a thriller or just drama and there, I found I was just lost. As a result of that I was never sure what to feel while watching the drama unfold. Was the narration meant to put us in the mind of Aileen, or was it just narrative to make us feel sorry for her?

While the intentions were unclear, it always seemed to feel out of place, thus I was confused what to think and how to feel. The film, while it does take time to warm up to, is ultimately very engrossing and Patty Jenkins gives very competent direction with a dark gritty tone exploring Aileen’s mind, and we realize both women are basically prisoners in their lives as in the final moments we witness Aileen’s escorting to prison where she’ll inevitably face execution. Look for a beautiful soundtrack featuring “Crimson and Clover”, “Don’t Stop Believing”, and more plus some good walk on roles from Bruce Dern, Pruitt Taylor Vincent, and a great cameo from Kane Hodder, the man who played the masked killer Jason Voorhes in the “Friday the 13th” films. Though a bit hard to get into and while it’s never really sure what it’s trying to get across, it’s a very good film with a tragic story, and incredible performances from Ricci, and Charlize Theron whose more than proven herself as an actress. She does a rare thing, she doesn’t play Aileen Wuornos, she becomes her.