Monster (2003) (R)
You may know the name Aileen Wuornos through reputation, new stories, or even word of mouth. It’s not a name that has gone into pop fame like the infamous Charles Manson (on a side note I think there should be a movie made about him....I’d watch it) but it is a name that carries a lot of weight to it. Charlize Theron earned a lot of awards for a movie that went unnoticed expect for her performance. And what a grand performance it is. Theron infuses her character with charisma and simple nerve which at first are off putting until a few minutes into the film when you truly believe that Aileen Wuornos is telling her own story. This is a fantastic performance by Theron, rightly acknowledged by the Academy Awards, but it isn’t one of the best, simply for the rest of the movie. The film is solid but not stellar.
The script is lacking in imagination and scape. It tries to pull off an intimate love story/thriller but is not quite successful at either. Christina Ricci plays Selby, a daughter of conservative parents who only want their dreams to come to fruition through their child. She does a good job but is overshadowed by Theron and the sometimes clumsy script. Near the end of the film I found myself wishing that her lines would just end so we could get back to Theron and the film itself. For at times, it feels like the film is dragging, even though it clocks in under the standard 2 hour mark.
The plot seems to disappear vaguely and when you think back to what happens you realize that it’s more of a character film than a plot film. What happens through the course of “Monster” is interesting in the leading of how Aileen went from a hooker to a killer and a lover. What the films lacks is the believability.
At the beginning of the film you are entirely convinced that Aileen could kill a person at a moment’s notice. She’s rough, tough, swears too much, and the make-up doesn’t hurt either (Toni G helped turn the runway ready Theron into a wide-forehead, black-eyed woman with large teeth ). But what I wanted from the script and the film itself was the growth of an individual, the only place we sort of get that is in Selby who just falls flat near the end of the film. After researching Wuornos (you can find some very interesting, yet disturbing videos online) you realize that this woman was genuinely crazy. In an interview or interrogation (I’m not exactly sure which) she blankly states that the police set her up and that they had placed a sonic device in her brain that flared up every time she went to write something down.
The film doesn’t show the crazy side of Wuornos which I felt like it could have. After all, Hollywood loves crazy people (Shine, Once Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Silence of the Lambs, A Beautiful Mind, Murder on the Orient Express, The Shinning, etc.). The film does have its peaks but it also has its valleys that sometimes seem to stretch on for a while. It’s well done—there’s a certain realism in the way that it was shot. No extravagant angles on the camera or fancy pans and sweeps like other contemporary directors might have done. This helps ground the film in a down-to-earthiness that works for the movie.
All-in-all, I wish that Patty Jenkins, the director and screenwriter, would have taken a little more time to give us a little more Monster. It’s still possible to empathize with a psychotic person, but it seems like Jenkins didn’t think so.
Score: 2 1/2 stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones