Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
I have only ever heard people speak of ‘Monster’ in the highest esteem. My partner absolutely loves the film, and judging by the pretty respectable 7.3 rating on IMDb, she wasn’t the only one. Not to mention the Academy Award for best actress which sits proudly on Charlize Theron’s mantelpiece. It was this performance which most excited me and enticed me into watching this crazy crime biopic.
To put it simply, Aileen Wuornos, is a hooker. Always has been, probably always will be. Based on a true story, ‘Monster’ reveals how Aileen goes from street worker to serial killer. Aileen (Theron) is ready to end it all, before she realises she has $5 left and decides to have one last drink. When she stumbles into a gay bar, she meets Selby (Christina Ricci), and the pair embark on a whirlwind relationship and a desperate attempt to forge a better life.
By far and away the best thing about this film is the performance and appearance of Charlize Theron in the leading role; it is an incredible transformation in both respects. Theron was one of my favourite actresses already before I watched ‘Monster’, and that opinion has only been confirmed a million times over since. She is horrifyingly convincing as the murderous prostitute Aileen, nailing the hick attitude and growing psychopathy. Her mutation from one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, to a grotesque, hagged prostitute is undoubtedly what swayed the decision in her favour at the 2004 Academy Awards though; I genuinely felt repulsed watching her, in a good way. You might be thinking, it must be difficult for any supporting actress to get noticed in this Theron show? Well, you’re right. Christina Ricci puts on a good show, and opposite anyone else, may well have shined. But she is no match for the all-consuming display from her co-star.
Unfortunately, the performance from Theron is SO good that I was really underwhelmed by everything else. I love a film based on a true story, and inspiration doesn’t come much more intriguing and thrilling than the story of Aileen Wuornos. The depiction of her bloodthirsty rampage should have had me gripped – because serial killers do make for good cinema – but the way her story was portrayed was dull and lacklustre. I feel like the horrible moments which defined Aileen, save for her first gruesome act of murder, were not given enough time and attention. Admittedly, that maiden murder scene was fantastically tense and terrifying, but most of the film after that point feels like a grand, theatrical soap opera.
I was expecting a really gritty and dark crime-thriller, a real bloodbath of lunacy and graphic violence. Occurrences of such were sporadic, and even then they just felt rushed. ‘Monster’ has an interesting story, yes. Charlize Theron gives the performance of her life, yes. And to tell the truth, it’s not even that ‘Monster’ is a bad film, or that it was a waste of time. But with huge expectations comes the risk of huge disappointment, and that is exactly what I suffered in this instance; the film just didn’t grip me or shock me enough. This is a film which owes a lot to its leading lady for salvaging it from the completely mundane.