After a very swift montage of the early years of Aileen's life, we are thrust straight into her adult life; the period following her move to Florida. This montage is accompanied by a voice-over from Theron, explaining that Aileen had never been able to fit in and just wanted people to recognize and love her for who she truly was. It is one night that she decides to use the remaining five dollars she had in her possession on a beer. In a gay club, she orders a beer and is approached by the sexually curious teenager Selby Wall, who offers to buy her a drink. After initial verbal retaliation from Aileen, she allows her to sit and converse with her. She remains adamant that she has had no lesbian experience, but essentially her sordid profession had left her with no taste for sex at all. After taking to her immediately, Selby invites Aileen to stay the night with her, and the unlikely friendship blossoms. For Selby, however, her new friendship poses a threat to her current household. She is temporarily exiled from her parents place following the accusation from another girl at church that Selby tried to kiss her. Having been attracted to Aileen and finding her presence protective, she decides to remain in Florida and move into an apartment with her.
It is only affordable for the couple because of Aileen's first murder of a client (Lee Tergesen, OZ), who she killed out of self-defense as the man had at first tried to rape and brutalize her. Following a series of failed attempts to find legitimate work, a frustrated Aileen returns to prostitution, where she embarks on her killing rampage. She robs her victims so she can support both herself and Selby, who are now struggling to pay their bills. While the murders are planned at origin, she finds herself becoming more and more desperate to evade capture, even having to kill an sympathetic elderly man who had offered to help her.
Charlize Theron's captivating performance is certainly amongst the decades most impressive. She doesn't just 'play' Wuornos, she totally inhabits her overwhelming pity for herself, her volcanic anger, an occasional sense of euphoria but mostly her impenetrable sadness at her own existence. Through her performance you realize that she empathizes with Eileen Wuornos and is channeling all of her feelings about this woman through her speech and mannerisms. Most of this is revealed in the eyes; and not just how committed Theron is to the role, but also how scarred and broken her character truly is. Technically, it's not so impressive. The grainy cinematography, which actually reminded me a lot of John McNaughton's Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, lacks some imagination, resorting mostly to alternating close-ups during dialogue. This was an effective way to display, countless times throughout the film, just how impressive Theron's makeover is. All of the dealings with her clients in their cars are shot the same way, and it becomes slightly repetitive, while the relationship with Selby also feels dramatized. Was Selby really so naive as to be seduced into living with Aileen? Where was the appeal? She becomes frustrated with Aileen for not providing for them, while she sits around the apartment all day. While she refuses to look for work, Aileen is out killing people to provide for her. The unnecessary arc that sees Selby meeting some women at a bar and deciding to take Aileen to the fun-fair, also felt out-of-place.
The conclusion, which was the subject of much publicity at the time and has been captured in the aforementioned documentary, is quickly wrapped up. Selby testifies against Wuornos at her trial, and she is convicted and sentenced to death. Monster is a repulsive but gripping portrayal of one woman's tragic life. We find that there are no excuses for her actions, but there were reasons, and the film is a success in making these visible.
My Rating: 4 Stars