Monster (2003)

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“Powerful portrayal by Theron, but tells us little we didn’t know already.”

monsterGot to give Theron the credit she deserves here, especially since the biggest previous impression she made was probably her 2 Days in the Valley catfight with Teri Hatcher. Safe to say her performance here will lend that scene an extra chill, as she plays Aileen Wuornos, America’s best-known female serial killer, a roadside hooker who killed seven men before being caught and executed. The film depicts her life, from when she meets lesbian-wannabe Selby (Ricci), with both women looking desperately for affection of any kind. The two fall into a downward spiral; initially, Wuornos kills to escape a brutal client, but by the end, she’s doing it simply to get money and a car.

Despite Theron’s remarkable transformation – both psychological and physical – the movie seems hollow at its heart, not least because Ricci seems wildly miscast, stumbling around behind Wuornos like a bumbling puppy. Oddly, Wuornos’ real lesbian lover was a strawberry-redhead called Tyria Moore, so the film is clearly well off complete accuracy. This is perhaps for legal reasons: the dead can’t sue; the living can, and frequently do. While the film effectively ends with her capture, Nick Broomfield’s jaw-dropping documentary covers the later period of the case perfectly well.

The two central characters operate in a vacuum; there’s hardly anyone with more than one scene. As a result, the movie makes Wuornos out to be the victim of an incredibly hard life, yet an unexplained gulf still remains between that, her general hatred of humanity, and her multiple murders. While Theron’s performance is certainly worthy of praise, for a better look into the abyss, watch Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

Dir: Patty Jenkins
Star: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci

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