Monster
Starring:
Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
Directed By :
Patty Jenkins
Grade
B

Synopsis: This film is based on real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. It follows her during the nine months in late '89 when she was killing 'johns', or guys who tried to pick her up and pay her for sex.

Who Will This Appeal To?: This is a small but effective drama, with the requisite power performances by the leads. In addition, it's based on a true story. Based on that description, you should be able to figure out if this is your kind of film or not.

Evaluation: Okay, pluses: power performance by Theron. Not only has she pulled a DeNiro and gone through an incredible physical transformation in order to look like Wuornos, but she carries it through with incredible acting. You would have to see the film to witness the nuances of her performance, but trust me, it's amazing. Also, I'm not generally a fan of Ricci, but she does a great job here, really adding to the story and helping carry the emotional momentum. Unfortunately, due to Theron putting on a lot of flab and ugly makeup, the lesbian relationship between the two leads to the least appealing lesbian sex scene I've ever seen. Aaah, paradise lost. However, this is a story as much about the relationship between these two people as it is about the events perpetrated by Wuornos, and these actors do a phenomenal job of facilitating that.

The minuses: this film is essentially a Lifetime movie. In contrast to Wonderland, for example, which shows factual events from multiple viewpoints and lets the audience decide what may've happened; Monster's purpose is to show how and why Wuornos became the woman she did and did the things she did. This leads to a very sympathetic portrayal of the woman, seeming to place blame on biology, parenting, society, circumstances, everything except the woman's own decisions. The story goes out of it's way to show a downward spiral of events that lead you to think "well, she was just trying to do what she could at the time." Overall, the story is overwhelmingly sympathetic to a woman who, whatever the circumstances, did in fact kill a lot of innocent men.

Final Verdict: The film, however much it may abuse the facts, is a compelling story in it's own right. The relationship between Wuornos and the young girl she took in and had a relationship with while she was killing (Selby) is pretty developed and is a tear-jerking story on its own. Combine that with Jenkins' version of Wuornos' life and why she committed these horrible murders, and it makes for a film that, while not a very objective version of the truth, is an entertaining and moving drama that most watchers will appreciate. Just bear in mind that the movie's goal is to get you to feel compassion for and identify with a killer instead of her victims. If you can stomach that, you should enjoy this film.

It's All in the Details: Theron has gotten a lot of press off this film, and is poised to be the next big thing if her next couple of films are marketed right. But she's actually pretty hard-working for a Hollywood type…she's been pumping out two or three films a year since her big debut in 1996's 2 Days in the Valley. It's just that most of these films have been below the radar. You can check her out in stinkers like Reindeer Games as well as more artsy flicks like Woody Allen's Celebrity and Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

- - Jeff Light

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