Published Feb 01, 2004Monster is the story of prostitute Aileen Wuornos, who, after 12 years on death row for killing seven men in Florida, was executed last year. At the time of her arrest in 1991, Wournos was pronounced by the media as the first female serial killer.
Starring Charlize Theron as Wuornos and Christina Ricci as Selby Wall, who may be based on Wuornos's girlfriend Tyria Moore, Monster is the first feature length film by writer/director Patty Jenkins. Jenkins's treatment of such sensational material is even-handed. Wournos is portrayed as a character who has absorbed too much brutality at the hands of men and resorts to murder as the only way of redressing a lifetime of victimisation. The film also acknowledges that only one of Wournos's killings was in self-defence. The others were less justifiable; some men were murdered just for being callus Johns, others for merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They, like her, are casualties in a long line of cruelty.
The film is admirably free of directorial conceits. The camera work, editing, lighting and locations are all "naturalistic." Even period details are consigned, thankfully, to the background. Jenkins has done great work in portraying the heartless road-scapes of America. In shabby motels and on the garbage-strewn medians of Floridian thoroughfares, the actors are the centre of attention.
And this is where Hollywood rears its glamorous head. Does Theron really deliver the bravura performance so many proclaim? I don't know. I was too distracted, thinking, "Wow, is that really Charlize Theron?" Surely somewhere there's a great non-glamorous actress out there that could have done the part without having to wear a complete disguise.
Theron's participation as actor/producer obviously helped Monster get made but there's a grating hypocrisy in a system that demands the casting of a swan in a movie about the terrible and murderous life of an ugly duckling. (Alliance Atlantis)