Throwback review: A ‘Monster’ Success
Patty Jenkins took the film industry by storm with her feature film directorial and screenwriting debut, “Monster” (2003).
The film is based on the true story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), who was a former prostitute convicted of murdering six men and executed in Florida in 2002.
Jenkin’s story telling techniques give off an independent vibe which works in her favor with the tone.
In the film, there are two distinct storylines that have their own tone.
The first explores the relationship between Aileen and Selby (Christina Ricci) while the second is Aileen’s lifestyle change, from prostitute to serial killer. Both storylines intertwine, which makes for a unique storytelling experience.
Jenkins pairs romantic scenes in which the characters are exploring their sexuality with violent scenes of prostitution and sexual assault.
Early in the film, a montage reveals Aileen entering a vehicle and leaving, a scene that may be shocking to someone that’s never observed Aileen’s line of work before. But for the character, she is going through the motions of her everyday routine.
The lighting is natural, and the empty background music, composed of obscure and unbalanced string and piano melodies, does not evoke emotion.
This use of music is effective as it reflects the distance prostitutes have from their line of work and society itself.
Many montages later, we finally get a first-hand look at how Aileen gets paid.
She enters a vehicle and inside is Vincent Corey (Lee Tergesen), the first victim in Aileen’s killing spree. Their conversation implies that this is not their first time in such an interaction.
Surprisingly, Vincent attacks Aileen, momentarily knocking her unconscious. The scene fades back in with her consciousness, and we realize Aileen is being sexually assaulted at the same time she does.
Until that moment, audiences don’t have a connection to Aileen; she is just a rude, rough-around-the-edges prostitute. That assault turns Aileen into a victim in the audiences’ eyes.
From that moment on, we vividly start to see the monster inside Aileen grow from prey to predator.
In “Monster,” Jenkins does a great job of building up the uncomfortable feeling you get after watching a scene where Aileen commits murder and goes home to her lover.
I know, personally, I found myself struggling with wanting Aileen to become a better person after surviving a tragic event and waiting for her to be caught and punished for the horrible acts she committed.
Others might not have the same internal struggle as I did, but I guarantee you’ll have an opinion by the end of the film.
Both the directing and acting styles cannot be imitated.
Before this film, Theron was known for “Mighty Joe Young” (1998) and “Reindeer Games.” (2000). An ensemble of men overshadowed Theron, who played a leading lady but without a pivotal role in the plot.
When I discovered that Theron portrayed the lead in “Monster,” I thought her star image would be a distraction. Knowing Theron only from recent films like “A Million Ways to Die in the West” (2014), I was not sure if she could pull off the intense role of a serial killer.
I am glad to say I was wrong.
Theron is unrecognizable with her appearance reflecting the long lasting effects of the harsh lifestyle Aileen lived.
With a body weight representative of an average woman, she dresses in ragged clothes, has no eyebrows and her hair is unkempt and frizzy.
The character’s appearance along with her precise mannerisms, body language and speaking patterns contribute to the excellent portrayal.
Theron acts lost, enraged and unstable all in one scene, sometimes even one line.
Her unique transformation will convince you that she deserved her Best Actress Academy Award.
My one criticism is, if the film began during Aileen’s childhood, we’d get a better understanding of how she came to be prostitute and maybe what caused her downward spiral.
The title “Monster” sums up the theme of the film: once you commit a monstrous act, it will continue to take over your life, eventually leading to all around destruction.
Overall, the film will keep your attention, especially knowing that it’s all based on true events.
Rating: 9/10 stars