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April 5, 2004 | by  | in Film | [ssba]


Monster is a difficult film to review as a whole. The overwhelming hype surrounding Charlize and her amazing transformation has far overshadowed the shocking tale the film depicts. Monster is not an easy film to enjoy as it is often brutal and gratuitous. It is also muddled in what it is trying to say – as it flicked haphazardly between tragic romance and criminal rampage, I found myself confused; are we supposed to hate Aileen, this serial killing prostitute, or feel sorry for her?

Monster’s primary intention I guess is to shed light on the life of Aileen Carol Wuornos, an abused prostitute who was executed for the killing of seven men in the 1980s. It doesn’t give the viewer any real answers – it doesn’t address her harrowing childhood, or how she came to be a prostitute from the age of 13. We have to accept things as they are given to us at the beginning of the film – Charlize as a near suicidal prostitute, down on her luck, mistreated by men and saved by a chance encounter in a gay bar with Selby (brilliantly portrayed by Christina Ricci). This soon becomes the focus of the movie – Aileen’s adoration of Selby and desire to provide for her is even mooted as a motive for the killings. The romance and killing escalate in tandem as the film rolls towards its doomed finale, which no doubt is no secret to you.

Much has been made of Charlize Theron’s performance. Well… She looks different to the Italian Job. Making Charlize ugly doesn’t make her a great actress – she doesn’t embarrass herself but she gives the performance none of the poignancy some of the actresses she beat out at the Oscars did. Christina Ricci is the real highlight, transforming herself not with makeup but with complete skill and craft into her role. The film’s focus is slightly skewed, focusing not on the controversies over her trial but on unproven details of her killings.

Monster has the odd moment of real emotional weight – like Aileen’s sad attempts at finding a job and depicts how far removed from reality she was, but glosses over many other more important components in the story. I found Monster a tough watch – it is definitely not for the faint of heart. For a more even-handed portrayal of the story, I would recommend heading along instead to Nick Broomfield’s documentary on the case – out this week at the World Cinema Showcase.


About the Author ()

James Robinson is a university dropout turned journalist who likes to pretend he has an honours degree. Turn ons include soup, scarfs, a hot bath and some FM-smooth Kenny G-esque instrumental jazz. Turn offs include student politicians, the homeless, and people who pronounce it supposebly.

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