Monster (2003) 


Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:




















Warning, minor plot points revealed!

There is no way to watch the film Monster and not spend most of the movie saying to yourself, "That can't be Charlize Theron!"  It's probably the most significant transformation I have ever seen by any actor in history.  It's not just the make up.  She gained weight for the role (or they padded her with fake flesh) and everything about her is altered.  She talks different, walks different, her gestures and body movements are changed.  She holds her mouth in a weird frown and her eyes in a perpetual state of bulging shock.  Even now while I write this I still can't believe it was her.  The picture below isn't even a really good one but just look at the difference!  It's crazy!

Anyway, now that we have that out of the way I can say that the movie is pretty good too.  It's by no means a great movie.  In fact it's probably more on par with a good Lifetime Channel movie.  It's the performance by Charlize that elevates it to greatness.  It's kinda like a 5 star performance in a 3 star film.  So that averages out to a 4 stars.

The story details the sad tale of real life serial killer Aileen Wuornos.  It empathizes with her but does not necessarily forgive.  We see her unfortunate meeting with Selby Wall (who would later testify against her.) Aileen's affection for Shelby along with her brutal past and present all coalesced in creating the killer she would become.  We see their relationship develop at the same time as her murder spree.  

Aileen's life up to the point where the film begins is a sad, horrible story of betrayal, abuse, neglect and danger.  It's amazing she survived as long as she did.  It's no big shock then when one of her "customers" goes psycho and starts to try and kill her.  Her self defense killing seems totally justified.  Regrettably this moment of empowerment starts a cascade of violence that becomes more and more unwarranted.  By the end she is killing people who want nothing more than to help her.

The film alone was not quite as graphic as I thought it would be.  I expected something along the lines of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  But the film isn't really about the murders, it's more about the situations and emotion that lead to them.   

The acting, as I said is excellent.  Charlize Theron is a lock for the Academy Award so there's no contest there.  If there was an over-all award for best performance of the decade, I would feel comfortable awarding it to her already.  No one will match this for quite some time.  I'm positive.  Christina Ricci does a great job as well.  Her role is very important as she is the catalyst that sets events in motion.  Theron's performance owes a great debt to Ricci.  Bruce Dern has a small role as the only man who seems to care for Aileen, in a fatherly way.

Over all I was slightly disappointed by the movie but at the same time I was thrilled by the performance.  It's kind of like going to a buffet, which is fun, and then finding one thing that you really, really like to eat and having as much as you want.  It's not necessary to see Monster at the theater so if you like to wait until DVD then be sure to rent it.  It's worth a watch.