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Monster

Director: Patty Jenkins

(U.S.A.| 2003. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 111 mins.)


An understanding of how society uses—and, more importantly, misuses—the term ‘monster’ offers crucial insight into the intentions of first time filmmaker Patty Jenkins. Without offering justifications or excuses, Jenkins seeks to provide some understanding of the underlying motivation of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who murdered seven men during 1989. She was subsequently tried, found guilty, and executed in 2002. By exploring details primarily from Wuornos’ viewpoint, Monster eschews the easy path of transforming her into a one-dimensional psycho. Instead, without diminishing the horror of her actions, the picture humanises Wuornos, developing a three-dimensional character where one might not normally expect to find one.
Monster is not the definitive take on Wuornos or her killing spree, but, as an alternative perspective, it gives one pause. Few with open minds will leave this movie undisturbed. Aside from the movie’s unique approach to a story involving a serial killer (no one will think of it as a ‘slasher’ film), there is another persuasive reason to see Monster—it displays one of the most impressive examples of acting by a woman in the last ten years. The process that transforms the glamorous Charlize Theron into the haggard, homely Wuornos is nothing short of astounding. And, while a measure of the credit must be given to the makeup artists, the lion’s share belongs to Theron—not only for her willingness to play ‘ugly’, but for the uncompromising approach she employs to become the character. In addition to gaining 25 pounds and letting her well-toned body sag in some unflattering areas, she perfectly adapts the attitude and mannerisms of a white trash prostitute.

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