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Monster movie poster

Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci

Directed by Patty Jenkins
Rated R
for strong violence and sexual content, and for pervasive language

out of Stars, Movie Grade: B
movie poster movie trailer

Theatrical Release: January 9, 2004 (expands)
Running time: 111 minutes

by Kevin Lang

Serial Killer Aileen 'Lee' Wuornos was executed by lethal injection in October of 2002, over a decade after her Florida killing spree came to an end. Now, first time director Patty Jenkins and actress Charlize Theron have turned Wuornos' story into a feature film costarring Christina Ricci as Wuornos' friend/lover Selby.

The most impressive thing about "Monster" was Jenkins attention to detail. Not only did she shoot the film at some of Wuornos' old hotspots, such as the same Port Orange, Florida biker bar that Wuornos had frequented, she also transformed a usually glamorous Charlize Theron into a very believable murdering prostitute. However, director Jenkins deserves only half the credit.

With Charlize Theron's portrayal of Wuornos, the actress has accomplished what most movie stars wait their entire careers for and sometimes never get, a role that extracts the richest nectar of their acting ability. From physical altercations, which included two sets of artificial teeth and layers of facial paints to the believability of every action of her character, Charlize Theron was Aileen Wuornos. The easily recognizable actress was gone. Her performance was engrossing, but was the film's story equally as powerful?

"Monster" centered itself around Aileen's relationship with a young woman named Selby (Christina Ricci). In real life Wuornos' friend was a strawberry blond named Tyria Moore. This character was likely altered for legal reasons, because Moore is still alive. It mattered little to the story. After meeting at a Daytona gay bar, Aileen and Selby developed an intimate relationship and soon Wuornos found that prostitution was the only way that she could support the two of them. After one of her 'Johns' abused her, Wuornos shot him dead in self-defense and took his money and car. This sparked the plan for her murderous money making spree.

In the film it seemed that Wuornos killed to keep Selby happy and in love with her. There may be some truth to this, but I'm sure that the real Aileen Wuornos wanted the money just as much for herself. The real Wuornos had previously served time in jail for robbery. She was also previously married to a wealthy elderly man who had their marriage annulled, claiming that Wuornos had beat him with his cane to get more money out of him. The movie chose to ignore much of the deviant behavior in Wuornos' past. Instead, its focus was on a more compassionate side of Wuornos that was likely not as prevalent in reality.

In the end, I realize that this is a movie and that most people in the audience will be unaware of Wuornos' life prior to what was chronicled in the film (I researched her life for the Reel-Faces section of this website). However, the often caring, human side that I saw in the film may be more fiction than reality.

"Monster" was not a feel good film. It was a semi-intriguing look at a female serial killer. It's strength lied more in Charlize Theron's performance than in the actual story itself, which failed to offer enough insight as to what drove Wuornos to commit her murders. This insight would have been a positive addition to the developing story, which seemed a little flat at times.

"Monster" Review written February 17, 2004, CTF.

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