Monster of a Review
By Rebecca Redshaw
I was a kid the last time I lost sleep over a movie. Thank you very much Bette Davis and Joan Crawford for asking the question What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? But it took hundreds of movies and a few decades to pass by before another pair of actresses wove a tale so disturbing I’m still exhausted today.
Monster is a movie based on true story that captures not only the details but the essence of Aileen Carol Wuornas, a serial killer in Florida who was put to death for her crimes. If you didn’t see her name in the credits (or hear her acceptance as Best Actress at the Academy Awards) you’d be hard pressed to believe that gorgeous Charlize Theron was playing the killer known as “Lee.” But her performance was less about make-up and weight gain than it was about the body language of a tormented soul that seeped into every frame of the movie.
Lee’s few moments of fleeting peace came with the realization that someone might actually love her – enter Selby. As a young lesbian searching for companionship, Selby, played by Christina Ricci, wants to be taken care of and Lee is her ticket. They share lots of alcohol and some tender moments of discovery before financial pressures mount and Lee resorts to the only sure way she knows to bring in dollars.
One of the reasons Theron’s performance is so powerful is because of Ricci’s poise and presence.
Writer/director Patty Jenkins keeps the volatile timeline on an even keel. Like Dead Man Walking, another well told “death as the inevitable end” drama, Monster does not paint false sympathies or dictate revenge. The viewer is entitled to draw his or her own conclusions about why this path in life was followed.
But the image that haunts in this film is not one of murder or revenge or outrage or anger but of an emboldened Lee hesitatingly riding a Ferris wheel.