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issue no.
  thursday
161
  january 22
2004
c o n t e n t s
 
Tread Lightly and Carry a Big Beard: Two New Bands Enter the Scene
RED Reviews
 
Projecting Self: Erica Church Presents Myth and Video
 
 
Sundance and Sundon't: The Only Reason We Still Feel Special Rolls Into Town
 
 
 

 theReel

 

Theron Shows the Complex Mind of a ‘Monster’
 
by Jeremy Mathews
 
Charlize Theron relinquishes her usual beauty for the role of Aileen “Lee” Wuornos, a prostitute best known for her title as America’s first female serial killer. Next stop—the Oscars.

“Monster”
Newmarket Films
Written and directed by Patty Jenkins
Produced by Mark Damon, Donald Kushner, Clark Peterson, Charlize Theron and Brad Wyman
Starring Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Lee Tergesen and Annie Corley
Rated R

(out of four)

Few films even try to reach the emotional turmoil that “Monster” captures. With its transformative performance by Charlize Theron, Patty Jenkins’ film looks at the life of a notorious serial killer with a sense of tragedy and compassion.

Theron plays Aileen Wuornos, who’s often credited as America’s first female serial killer. But rather than exploit this as a novelty, Jenkins attempts an in-depth of Wuornos’ psyche.

This is a woman who has been mistreated all her life. Her only career is prostitution, and she says over an opening montage that she liked the attention the men gave her because it felt like love. Over the years, however, she has been scarred with mistreatment like rape and abuse on top of the emotional damage that prostitution incurs. When she finally has a chance at happiness, she has no idea how to react, and instead destroys herself and those around her.

Depressed and suicidal one night, Aileen unknowingly walks into a lesbian bar and meets Selby (Christina Ricci). She’s drawn to Aileen’s strong, violent personality and Aileen, after a homophobic rampage, realizes that Selby, the only person who’s ever shown an interest in her, is actually quite lovely.

Selby comes from a conservative family in a small town, and is currently staying with another family of Christian fundamentalists because her father freaked out after a lesbian-kissing incident at church.

This clash between these two backgrounds creates an interesting dynamic, with both women recalling their fear and skepticism of the other’s way of life. Aileen’s actions are like running on a treadmill toward a film of a normal life, and Selby has been living a life of conflict for some time due to her sexuality.

After their first date of sorts, kissing at an ice skating rink, they plan another date before Selby leaves town to go back home. To get the money, Aileen prostitutes herself and ends up with an abusive rapist whom she kills in self-defense in one of the film’s strongest scenes. After the first killing, she begins killing more while drawing from that memory.
Without gimmicky flashbacks, Jenkins creates similarities between the scenes that demonstrate Aileen’s association with the previous event, making it clear that none of the men she’s killing later on are as bad as the first man. Aileen’s degree of mercy grows smaller and smaller as the film progresses.

Perhaps I was just too amazed over the parallels between golf and life to notice, but up to this point, Theron hadn’t made any real impressions, with films like “The Legend of Bagger Vance” that didn’t demonstrate a particularly bright talent. But in “Monster,” she’s brave not only in her willingness to abandon her model background and look unrecognizable, but in the concentration she brings to going inside Wuornos’s mind. Even if the film weren’t as well-made as it is, the performance demands to be watched as it deftly communicates the emotions of a mind gone mad.
Ricci also deserves some attention for playing Wuornos’ confused lover, especially beside Theron’s work. Just as Aileen is confused about her new relationship and how to lead a normal, happy life, Selby also doesn’t want to let go of her first feelings of true happiness and to an extent has to choose how much she knows and doesn’t know. As the story reaches its sad end, Ricci has several key scenes.

Just as Theron came out of nowhere, Jenkins reveals herself to be an amazing director, capturing images like a hand floating in a car’s side-view mirror that bring poetry to this personal tragedy. Her screenplay deeply seeks to understand a mind that didn’t know how to respond to a chance at happiness.
jeremy@red-mag.com



 
 

 

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