Monster (2003)

I've heard people mention and praise Charlize Theron's performance in Monster a lot of times since I started blogging, so, after putting it off for ages, I finally watched it. 

The film tells the true story of Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), a Daytona Beach prostitute who was convicted and eventually executed for killing six men. The story begins in 1989 when she meets a young girl, Selby (Christina Ricci), and the two eventually fall in love. One night, things get pretty rough with a John, Aileen kills him to prevent him from raping her and runs away with his money, his car and Selby. She decides to quit hooking and straighten up, find a real job, but she keeps failing at every turn so she goes back out on the street and starts murdering her clients.

The story is a very sordid and unpleasant one. It's the depressing and tragic story of a woman who saw murder as her only way out, which is told in a way that ends up being way more than a story about a serial killer; instead, it's a powerful story that makes you question whether you would do the same thing, making you lose pretty much all faith in humanity and even in yourself in the process. 

As engaging and thought-provoking the plot is, the most compelling aspect of the story easily is the character of Aileen. She is a lost, tortured, damaged soul who suffered all her life. She had an abusive childhood —a victim of sexual abuse— and was rejected pretty much for her entire life. She is so beat up by life, and failed by society, that we kind of understand why she did what she did. The character was of course fictionalized as I doubt Wuornos struggled to kill some of her victims but it doesn't feel wrong as it makes Aileen more human, maybe even worthy of our sympathy. The character of Selby isn't as well developed —she is a lesbian coming from a very strict religious family. Period.— but the contrast between the two women, so different both physically and in their personalities and behaviours, is interesting as well as the characteristics they share: they are both rejected by the world, and both are in a desperate need of being accepted by others for who they are. 

Newmarket Films
Charlize Theron's performance is just as terrific as everyone says. I've seen pictures and videos of the real Wuornos and I can tell she didn't play her, she became her. From her appearance —she gained weight, shaved her brows, wore contact and prosthetic teeth— from her mannerisms, she was Wuornos. What she achieves here is not only her best performance but one of the best performances I've ever seen. Christina Ricci's performance is quite compelling as well as she conveys naivety and seductiveness at the same time very well.

As for filmmaker Patty Jenkins, she is to be praised both for her writing and directing skills. Sure, the script isn't perfect as the supporting character, specifically Selby's, could have used more depth, and it's a bit of a dramatisation; also, at times the film seems to move slow. And yet, she crafted a film that makes us sympathize with a serial killer, a film that does not glorify violence, that is nicely paced for the most and masterfully edited.


  1. This is a great film as it does showcase the mind of a killer and actually make you feel for her. I would suggest watching Nick Bloomfield's documentaries on Aileen Wuornos.

  2. This movie...yeesh...tough, tough movie. It's definitely about far more than just a serial killer. It takes its time to humanize Wuornos and that makes all the difference in the world. Theron really did become this person, as you say. It's a startling and masterful performance. And Ricci was nearly as good. Ridiculous that Jenkins was not afforded the opportunity to direct another movie until Wonder Woman. How many great stories did we miss out on because of this?

    1. I checked her filmography after seeing this to see what other interesting movie she had directed between this and Wonder Woman and I was truly shocked to learn no movie happened in between.