Monster / Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer Patty Jenkins (Directed by Nick Broomfield

Monster / Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer Patty Jenkins (Directed by Nick Broomfield
Aileen Wuornos was a Florida prostitute from the most hard-knock background anyone could possibly imagine who confessed to killing seven of her johns in self-defense. It's a story seething with dramatic, moral and philosophical potential, yet why is it that even after watching both these movies about Wuornos, one doesn't feel that they're even getting half of the full story? In Broomfield's case, his documentary, Aileen: Life And Death Of A Serial Killer, was an unintentional follow-up to his 1992 film The Selling of a Serial Killer, which documented how Wuornos was exploited by everyone from her lover to her lawyer to the police, who peddled her horrific story for their own financial gain. When Broomfield was invited to testify in Wuornos's death sentence appeal trial, he brought his camera along and ended up being the only reporter she talked to before her execution. In between, she withdraws her attempt at an appeal and recants on her earlier claim of self-defense in order to expedite her exit from a corrupt world, because, she says, "they'll only fuck me over some more." Wuornos is clearly delusional before her death, comparing her ordeal to Jesus Christ, and believing that there was a conspiracy among the cops to let her keep killing so that their story would be more lucrative for book and movie deals. It's not clear what separates Broomfield from the subjects of her disdain. When he tracks down and interviews her birth mother who abandoned her, it's a fascinating voyeuristic moment, but barely above those of the network news sleaze peddlers. Isn't he exploiting her in his own way? "Thanks to cops and the system," Aileen rants, "a raped woman was executed and she's being used for books and movies and shit." That brings us to Monster, which reduces Aileen's tale to that of a Hollywood love story between two very non-Hollywood characters. Here, Aileen is a hard luck hooker (true) who finds love for the first time in her life (likely true) with a young woman who's also damaged like a bird with a broken wing (not exactly true: the character of Selby Wall is based very loosely on her real-life lover Tyria Moore). Aileen's first killing is an absolutely justifiable self-defense, but after that the acts are portrayed more as homicidal robberies so that she can bring home the bacon for her naïve gold-digging girlfriend who thinks hooking is glamorous — and this is somehow a love story that motivated a killing spree? Despite the film's serious flaws, writer/director Patty Jenkins manages to make such a difficult movie intensely watchable, and not just because of Charlize Theron's performance. Theron does a dead-on impression of Aileen (confirmed by Bloomfield's film), even if she's made out to be even more unattractive than the real woman — those teeth are way over the top and probably found on the set of Red Green. Her acting ranges from brilliant to complete parody; there are moments when one has to think that Kids in the Hall's Scott Thomson does a better redneck impersonation. As her lover, Christina Ricci is the real rock of Monster, mostly for her subtlety next to Theron's overpowering presence. This is a film that actually works much better on DVD, where you don't have to put up with snickering homophobic jackasses in the theatre who think the killing is cool or who are only there because Oscar and Ebert told them to. And there's a whole other essay to be written about the horribly inappropriate use of "Don't Stop Believing" and "Crimson and Clover." Instead, one line from Broomfield's film stays with you after watching Monster. It's when Aileen says, "You're an inhumane bunch of living bastards and bitches and you're going to get your asses nuked in the end. You don't take human life like this and sabotage it and rip it apart and say, ‘Thanks for all the money I made off ya,' and not care about a human being and the truth being told." Plus: featurette, trailer, more. (Columbia/TriStar)