Monster

Movie Review by Stephen Doyle

Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Scott Wilson, Lee Tergesen

Director: Patty Jenkins

MONSTER, much like another independent hit from a few years ago, BOYS DON’T CRY, is an obscure and disturbing true story which is transformed into an absorbing, moving and convincing film. It centres around Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron) a trailer-trash prostitute who has fallen so low that when we first see her she is threatening suicide. Her life looks on the up, however, when she starts a relationship with a young, well-spoken lesbian named Selby (Christina Ricci). Fate once again transpires against her however, as, soon after meeting Selby, she is violently raped before managing to kill her tormentor in self-defence. The police don’t catch her, but the experience causes Aileen to lose her last ties to reality and she turns into an unhinged serial killer, whilst also trying to look after Selby who has now moved in with Aileen.

Overall, MONSTER is a good, if unpleasant, movie. It is now well know, however, that one aspect of the film stands out more than any other – Charlize Theron’s performance as Aileen. Acting, at times, appears to be a very easy profession, not to mention a well paid one. It seems an actor just has to stand in the right place, say their lines and throw in a bit of artistic posing and posturing for good measure. Some laconic actors have even agreed, saying that they only became actors because it beats working for a living.

Occasionally though, a performance comes along which disproves the theory that acting is an easy game. Theron’s role in MONSTER, which has deservedly won her enough awards to last her a lifetime, is such a performance. The skill, artistic talent and sheer hard work that she brings to her role is breathtaking. She has gained 30 pounds for the role, wears false teeth and wears make up which uglifies her considerably. But these physical additions to her role are actually the least important things about her performance. More impressive is the way she adopts a complete and convincing set of features for the role – an ungainly walk, a masculine stance, a range of grotesque facial expressions, an American trailer-trash accent and so on – which she maintains flawlessly throughout the film.

More impressive still is the way she acts out the big emotions, emotions which must be alien to Theron – the distresses, rages, euphoria and passions of an abused, hyperactive, delusional prostitute turned serial killer. I was left looking at Theron’s performance and wondering “how the hell does she do that?”, something which I do not often wonder about when watching a film, in which actors and actresses so often merely play themselves, or failing that, then extensions of themselves. In MONSTER however, Theron seems to become 100% Aileen Wuornos and 0% Charlize Theron to the extent that one almost entertains the notion that Theron has made a pact with the devil to produce such an inspired performance.

5 out of 6 stars

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