Film: Monster (2003)

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Film:

Monster

Director: Patty Jenkins
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Sony Pictures

Critics have universally praised Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster, and the praise, for once, is astonishingly deserved. The gorgeous star of The Italian Job and The Cider House Rules vanishes into the character of Aileen Wuornos, a real-life serial killer and prostitute who murdered at least seven men in Florida. Monster traces her relationship with a young woman named Selby (Christina Ricci, The Ice Storm, Buffalo 66), which intertwines with Wuornos’s murder spree. This remarkable movie finds compassion for…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Critics have universally praised Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster, and the praise, for once, is astonishingly deserved. The gorgeous star of The Italian Job and The Cider House Rules vanishes into the character of Aileen Wuornos, a real-life serial killer and prostitute who murdered at least seven men in Florida. Monster traces her relationship with a young woman named Selby (Christina Ricci, The Ice Storm, Buffalo 66), which intertwines with Wuornos’s murder spree. This remarkable movie finds compassion for Wuornos but unflinchingly faces her brutal crimes; Theron expresses this woman’s horrific life history without softening her terrifying, dead-eyed stare. This is a gripping, devastating performance, a physical and psychological transformation comparable to Robert DeNiro’s in Raging Bull. The movie’s moral and emotional complexity wouldn’t succeed without this searing performance—but succeed it does, and it will stick with you for some time afterward. —Bret Fetzer

Barnes and Noble

One of 2003’s most remarkable movies, Monster is distinguished by Charlize Theron’s Oscar-winning performance. The glamorous Theron underwent an astounding metamorphosis to play Aileen Wuornos, the infamous Florida prostitute executed for the murders of seven men. She gained weight, made her hair stringy, took the cap off a chipped tooth, and added freckles to her face. More than the physical transformation, though, Theron dipped deep into her own psyche to come up with a characterization that made Wuornos—by most accounts a pretty despicable human being—not only understandable but sympathetic. The film revolves around Wuornos’s relationship with Selby Wall (played superbly by Christina Ricci), whom she meets one day in a seedy bar. The couple set up house, and Wuornos, forced by lack of money to keep working as a prostitute, releases her pent-up rage by robbing and killing her johns. It may be difficult to imagine such unsavory material making a fine movie, but first-time director Patty Jenkins pulled it off. She doesn’t rely on flashy camera moves or narrative trickery; in fact, much of Monster is shot in a straightforward, unobtrusive style that suggests the work of a documentary filmmaker. Clearly, the thrust of her creative input was shaping the performances of Theron and Ricci, and the outstanding results suggest that Jenkins could be a filmmaker of rare talent. Some viewers might find the subject matter off-putting, and indeed, Monster is pretty tough going at times. But it’s also incredibly compelling, and well worth seeing if only for Theron’s appropriately praised star turn. Ed Hulse

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