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Monster (2003)

June 2, 2010

VERDICT:
7/10 Even Better Reasons Not To Frequent Hookers

This one’s all about Cherize, folks.

Monster is based on the life and crimes of one Aileen Wuornos who, after a life of turning tricks for all the wrong reasons (are there right reasons?) at the nowhere-near-ripe age of 12, fell in love with a lesbian instead of killing herself, tried to lead a good life for about a week, and then started offing her clientele thanks to a particularly unpleasant encounter that almost left her six feet under.

Cheery stuff, indeed.

So, yeah, that Aileen Wuornos sure was an…interesting gal. Yeah, that’ll work. Not too often that a woman gets thrown into the Serial Killing Hall of Fame, but when you gun down seven guys in cold blood over the course of one year, you most definitely earn yourself a top spot on the list. But even for everything that makes Aileen’s grim, unfortunate and unusual life one that warrants a movie adaptation, it’s kinda weird that the most intriguing part about it ends up being the acting.

It’s hard to say why exactly that is, but let’s just start with the good and work our way down.

Charlize Theron deserved the Oscar in part because she gives a pretty intense and crazed performance, but I’m thinking the whole physical transformation was the real deal breaker for her in ’04. See, this is Charlize Theron on a bad day, and this is Charlize Theron as Aileen on her Sunday best.

Yeesh.

Chances are you’ve already seen those photos before, but check out what Aileen actually looked like, then look at those pictures again.

Double yeesh.

Anyway, Charlize seems like a pretty legit and pretty cool gal to begin with, but she gets a lot of credit for jumping into this role the way that she did even if it does seem like she’s almost hamming it up at times. It’s kinda funny how by just constantly sucking on your gums to make sure your fake teeth don’t fall out can make your character look that much crazier, but it works and that mega-frown combined with those bulging eyes does wonders for the overall image. Not the kinda person I’d pick up off the side of the road and drive into the woods with, but hey, different strokes for different folks I suppose.

And Christina Ricci ain’t too bad either as Aileen’s surprisingly understanding lesbian lover, Selby. Only thing is that Selby actually looks like this in real life, but despite the drastic difference in terms of physical appearance, she does her thing and does it well even though she gets totally overshadowed by Charlize.

But the rest of it is just okay. The characters are kinda hard to get into, the directing is pretty standard and so is the writing generally, so it ends up being more up to the cast than anyone else to send this baby home. There aren’t a whole lot of individual scenes that stuck with me either, but it’s really not a bad movie, just kinda unspectacular in relation to the real forces driving it at the forefront.

There’s also something a bit odd about movies centered around actual serial killers who killed actual people. It’s not glorifying Aileen or her actions in any way, more just giving us a glimpse into her tortured life than anything else, but it’s gotta be weird for the families of the people who actually died ’cause of her. Had the same strange feeling during a South Park episode where Ted Bundy, Jeffery Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy went around mutilating folks like a homicidal version of The Three Stooges while trying to pick up a birthday cake for Satan. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, and I know this isn’t the intention whatsoever, but I can’t help but find it kinda weird is all.

So even though it lacks in some areas, Monster shines more often than not thanks to Charlize and her gung-ho attitude. Thought the whole would be more memorable than its parts in the long run, but hers is a performance worth checking out and one that very much brought this up from a 6 to a 7.

Hookers, man. Nothin’ but bad news.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2010 5:49 am

    Good review and you’re right to pick out Charlize Theron’s performance. I do, however, think that actresses (especially) have a tendency to belittle their exceedingly good looks to gain artistic appreciation (and an Oscar nom!). Penelope Cruz has done it (moustache), Nicole Kidman has done it (nose), and Anjolina Jolie has done it (teeth). It’s fair enough I suppose but it’s a bit demeaning to those actresses who could have played the roles in question without the need for any special transforming make-up they could have simply gone with their (unfortunate) natural look.

  2. June 2, 2010 6:55 am

    Dirty, disgusting stuff here, but I love it.

    • Armando Gomez permalink
      November 8, 2010 3:29 am

      Dirty, disgusting stuff here

      What is? The review? The movie? The performance of the actresses? The writing/directing? The comments? Please clarify.

      • November 8, 2010 12:42 pm

        Pretty sure he meant the movie. I hope he did…

  3. June 2, 2010 8:49 am

    Haven’t seen this since it first came out, but I remember getting the chills at how dark Theron’s performance was. If you think the physical look was something, you should track down one of Nic Broomfield’s two docs on Aileen and see how she got the mannerisms just so as well!

  4. June 2, 2010 10:46 am

    What you’re saying, I think and I agree with you, is that by doing a movie that highlights the serial killer, you are ignoring the pain of not only the victims but the victims families.

    I was a little taken aback by not only this fact, but the film, as I remember it, seemed cast a very negative light on the dudes that got smoked. Like they were all kiinda scummbaggy. ‘acourse, they were going to a hooker and that hooker looked like Aileen Wuornos (triple yeesh), so maybe that’s evidence enough that the doods are kinda questionable.

    Still, those guys still have mothers and children and ex-wives and trailer park landlords that are alive todfay and I’m sure those peeps are not too happy with the unflattering geenralizations that the film makes about the victims as a whole.

    • June 2, 2010 10:52 am

      Exactly what I’m saying. Just makes me think about how pissed off I would be if the killer of my family member got a movie made about them and also made the victims look, like you said, scumbaggy. Not that Aileen is portrayed in a good light either, but still, weird.

  5. Branden permalink
    June 2, 2010 1:01 pm

    I tried to watch this film a couple of times. I cannot get into it. I was hard to watch.

    • June 2, 2010 3:41 pm

      Yeah, that rape scene wasn’t too fun. I hear ya.

      • June 4, 2010 2:40 pm

        I dunno, I was pretty riveted by the whole movie. Some things are hard to watch but they draw you in so much that you can’t turn them off.

  6. June 2, 2010 1:02 pm

    Too dark for me to sit through, sorry.

  7. June 2, 2010 5:14 pm

    Have you seen the Nick Bloomfield Documentaries on Aileen Wournos? I wonder which is more faithful to the reality?

    • June 3, 2010 10:19 am

      Gonna guess the docs are, but I haven’t seen ’em. Some day…

      • June 3, 2010 10:27 am

        As a general rule docs are more faithful to reality than bio-pics. The only thing one has to take into consideration is a doc director editorializing.

        the docs are fascinating, and a smidge less sympathetic to Aileen.

  8. Darren permalink
    June 2, 2010 5:56 pm

    I agree with you: it’s grand movie with a fantastic central performance. In fairness, it’s one of the finest “through the eyes of a serial killer” films in the past decade.

  9. June 2, 2010 9:16 pm

    I still haven’t seen this. I’m a bad movie buff, I am.

    Lovely review.

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