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  •  REVIEW: MONSTER

      Monster
    Scary "Monster"

    Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci give distressingly earthy performances in "Monster," a low-budget, high-profile biography of executed murderer Aileen Wuornos.

    By LESLIE (HOBAN) BLAKE
    Offoffoff.com


    Aileen Wuornos, the infamous Lesbian highway hooker-cum-serial killer, is the subject of first-time feature director Patty Jenkins' fascinating and truly auspicious debut docu-drama.

    MONSTER
    Written and directed by: Patty Jenkins.
    Cast: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Scott Wilson, Lee Tergesen, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Annie Corley, Marco St. John, Bubba Baker, Marc Macaulay, Brett Rice.
    Cinematography: Steven Bernstein.

    Related links: Official site
      
    Wuornos' story has seduced writers from several disciplines. There have been at least two plays — the 1992 "Lesbians Who Kill," and last year's "Self Defense" — both of which dealt with the romantic and homicidal activities of a fictitious lesbian figure and her lover. Documentarian Nick Broomfield's obsession with the real death row inmate began with his 1991 "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer."

    His second Wuornos doc, "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer," will open nationwide on January 9 and Broomfield generously gave Jenkins and her producer/star Charlize Theron access to information and outtakes from both his works. "The way I look at it," the documentarian explained, "a good Hollywood movie about Aileen would be preferable to a bad one."

      Monster
    But "Monster," shot in a series of grungy Florida locations by a dedicated cast and crew on a mini-budget in a mere 29 days, is the antithesis of a Hollywood movie. And though well-deserved, it's a shame that all the buzz on "Monster" is bound to focus on the gorgeous Theron's phenomenal transformation into the blowsy Florida prostitute who, after 12 years on death row, died voluntarily by lethal injection a little over a year ago.

    It's certainly a performance to reckon with. The persona of the big-boned Aileen, with her limp blonde hair and mottled skin, fits Theron like some frightening Halloween costume. But don't let this bravura performance keep you from seeing what a brilliant writer-director Jenkins is. Mixing and matching indie elements from such shopworn concepts as coming-of-age, dysfunctional families and homophobia, she's come up with a terrifying variation on Thelma-and-Louise — but with a lot more sex and murder.

    In "Monster," Wuornos (who began hooking at age 13 to help out the family which naturally put her out when she became pregnant), constantly calls Selby "my baby." And Selby (who professes to be "grown up") reverts to infantilism with her paramour. The ever-shifting dynamic between the two is akin to watching the mating dance of two praying mantises — but we're never sure who is going to devour whom.

    Monster  
    While Theron definitely has the showier role, Christina Ricci reveals a heretofore-untapped depth and subtlety as Wuornos' unbalanced young lover Selby, who manipulates the older woman from the start. Was this the true relationship? Every work on the subject so far has pushed its own agenda and although Jenkins tries hard to be evenhanded, ultimately her film opts for a "Wuornos was a victim" scenario.

    The case was a cause celebre among death penalty opponents for 12 years, before her sudden declaration that she had indeed killed her seven victim/johns in cold blood, not in self-defense as she had previously stated. Florida Governor Jeb Bush quickly complied when she demanded to die immediately.

    Broomfield's original doc shows Wuornos' "after-life" in prison (not dealt with in Jenkin's film) and his new doc will no doubt raise as many questions as it answers, but with Wuornos gone and her lover disappeared, the whole truth can never really be known. To approach "Monster" as a fictional work based on a true story is to find a satisfying and truly frightening portrait of not one, but two marginal "women in love."

    A final word on the performances. It's a shame that Ricci's best work to date may not be recognized, but Golden Globe nominee Theron is a real Oscar contender and if the old Oscar adage about "taking off your makeup and/or playing crazy" holds, then Theron holds two trump cards in this Oscar race. And wouldn't that have made Wuornos herself laugh like crazy.

    DECEMBER 26, 2003
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Monster:

  • Does the term "Blood Money" ring a bell?   from Ethan, Jan 9, 2004
  • Re: Does the term   from JPColter, Jan 14, 2004
  • Re: Does the term   from Catherine, Jan 18, 2004
  • Re: Does the term   from ethan, Jan 20, 2004
  • Re: Does the term   from shamus of the north, Feb 3, 2004
  • Re: Does the term   from JPColter, Sep 28, 2004
  • Re: Does the term   from ethan, Nov 25, 2004
  • Re: Does the term   from jpcolter, Dec 9, 2004
  • Raging Cow?   from Lin, Jan 22, 2004
  • Re: Raging Cow?   from ethan, Jan 22, 2004
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  • Re: Raging Cow?   from ethan, Jan 23, 2004
  • Re: Raging Cow?   from Vincentq, Jan 26, 2004
  • Re: Raging Cow?   from Lin, Jan 29, 2004
  • Lin   from ethan, Jan 30, 2004
  • Re: Lin   from Lin, Jan 30, 2004
  • Re: Raging Cow?   from Rob Willis, Oct 25, 2005
  • Woo, I love non-true things.   from Jessie, Feb 11, 2004
  • Re: Woo, I love non-true things.   from , Feb 12, 2004
  • Re: Woo, I love non-true things.   from Niki, Jan 23, 2005
  • Re: Woo, I love non-true things.   from Rob Willis, Oct 25, 2005
  • Lee   from ccms, Jan 12, 2004
  • in awe   from Sah, Jan 18, 2004
  • Re: in awe   from beth, Jun 22, 2004
  • Astounding performance   from susan mellups, Jan 24, 2004
  • I liked it but ...   from ajm, Feb 4, 2004
  • Re: I liked it but ...   from Catherine, Feb 15, 2004
  • Re: I liked it but ...   from marie, Jun 27, 2004
  • Re: I liked it but ...   from , Aug 5, 2004
  • Re: I liked it but ...   from Honey Singh, Dec 22, 2004
  • This Movie Was Amazing!!!   from Haley bechler, Feb 15, 2004
  • Shocking, to say the least   from Erica, Feb 21, 2004
  • How in god's name did she get that oscar?   from Jaclyn, Mar 23, 2004
  • Re: How in god's name did she get that oscar?   from Rob Willis, Oct 25, 2005
  • Re: How in god's name did she get that oscar?   from Rob Willis, Oct 25, 2005
  • Re: That 80's song played in roller skate scene?   from shyeshye, Jun 22, 2004
  • wow   from bethany, Jun 14, 2004
  • song title   from shyeshye, Jun 22, 2004
  • Re: song title   from Rachel, Jan 4, 2009
  • [no subject]   from Tina, Aug 4, 2004
  • songs   from Kay, Aug 25, 2004
  • Re: songs   from Angie P, Sep 18, 2004
  • Re: songs   from Superman, Sep 26, 2004
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  • Re: songs   from leanne, Jan 3, 2006
  • [no subject]   from hayley, Nov 24, 2004
  • Best Movie   from Honey Singh, Dec 22, 2004
  • SOOO SAD   from Nichol Hoy, Jan 23, 2005
  • Re: SOOO SAD   from norma b, Apr 5, 2005
  • Hard to watch but what a shame to miss   from Tackleberry, Feb 7, 2005
  • monster   from norma, Apr 5, 2005
  • Good Movie   from lydia, May 7, 2005
  • Re: Good Movie   from Rob Willis, Oct 25, 2005
  • Re: Good Movie   from connie, Jan 1, 2006
  • Re: Good Movie   from Pamela, Jan 26, 2006
  • Re: Good Movie   from Pamela, Jan 26, 2006
  • Re: Good Movie   from L O K I, Sep 26, 2008
  • scary   from Brit, Mar 16, 2006
  • re:song   from GABS, Jun 8, 2006
  • this is my favorite movie of all time!   from Kim, Jul 10, 2006
  • Aileen Wiernos "Monster".   from Joan Palmer, Oct 9, 2006
  • Abouit the movie ''monster''   from Jenna, Feb 19, 2007
  • Y'all have a good movie   from Janet Jackson, Feb 20, 2007

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