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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.77%
Average: 14.85%
Pretty Bad: 2.97%
Total Crap: 10.89%

5 reviews, 71 user ratings

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by Rob Gonsalves

"Shockingly powerful, with a deservedly legendary turn by Theron."
5 stars

'Monster' is a real-life horror movie -- of the small but prestigious serious-true-crime-film genre -- that deserves to stand alongside 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer' and 'In Cold Blood.'

This particular story has inspired books, a TV movie (Overkill, starring Jean Smart), two documentaries by Nick Broomfield, and even an opera. What is there left to say about Aileen Wuornos, who confessed in 1991 to the highway murders of seven men? A prostitute with a terribly harsh backstory, Wuornos lashed out at the world, at anything that threatened her one chance at love -- her relationship with lover Tyria Moore, who ended up betraying her to the police by taping a phone call in which Wuornos talked about her crimes.

Writer/director Patty Jenkins focuses on this doomed love in a loveless life. Aileen (Charlize Theron), when we meet her as an adult, has been hooking since she was thirteen. Men disgust her, because she sees the worst of them at their worst. She denies she's a lesbian, but when she meets the tiny, girlish Selby (a fictionalized Tyria, well-played by Christina Ricci in a change-of-pace optimistic role), something in her is moved. Selby, a baby dyke just tiptoeing out of the closet, has a cast on her arm -- she's like a little bird with a broken wing, and Aileen takes her in. She wants to take care of Selby, enacting a husband role -- Selby will stay home (she can't work with her arm in a cast) while Aileen goes out and makes money by turning tricks. When one of her johns (Lee Tergesen of Oz, letting his freak flag fly) goes psycho on her, she kills him in self-defense. The other six men she kills do little to earn it except picking her up and having money -- and she needs money to keep Selby fed.

The real triumph of Charlize Theron's performance, aside from the cosmetic transformation you've heard too much about, is that she lets us understand Aileen's murderous determination while never romanticizing it or excusing it. This is, undoubtedly, a severely damaged personality at the end of her rope, and Theron makes Aileen realistically frightening and unreachable at times. Murder in her hands is certainly not cool. Two of her encounters with men -- Pruitt Taylor Vince as a hapless, stammering trucker and Scott Wilson as a good samaritan -- come to surprising and resonant ends, and Theron's face registers Aileen's disgust with her company, her world, herself.

This could be the simple story of an abused woman who finally snapped; her beating and torture at the hands of her first victim may shock the unshockable, particularly the sadistic use of rubbing alcohol after Aileen has been violated with a stick. Yet Jenkins' handling of the murder that follows doesn't have a remotely victorious tone. Aileen is one of the lost, one of the people for whom nothing will ever go right (there's a mid-film montage of Aileen pathetically applying for various jobs), and her killings don't have the ring of empowerment but the predetermined knell of a descent further into hell. She goes home to her lover after one murder, pausing to wash off the blood in the hotel shower. Past a certain point, if Selby doesn't know where all of Aileen's money is coming from, it's probably because she doesn't want to know.

Theron also catches the nervous, creepy aliveness of Aileen, something I noticed while watching the actual person in Broomfield's 1992 documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer. Aileen, who was executed in October 2002, was no dimwit; she was terribly emotionally stunted, as Monster acknowledges on several occasions, including Aileen's infamous courtroom tirade (having seen the real Aileen delivering the obscenities in Broomfield's film, I can attest that Theron duplicates the moment precisely).

Aileen's answer to just about everything was a closed fist. Though Aileen later repudiated her own earlier claims that all of her murders had been in self-defense, 'Monster' looks deeper and sees a life lived in self-defense.

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originally posted: 01/06/07 14:08:21
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User Comments

7/13/20 Louise (the real one) A compelling watch. Theron is terrific. 4 stars
9/22/17 morris campbell disturbing well acted film 4 stars
3/24/12 Mabel Excellent film with a powerful lead performance. I highly recommend it (for adults only). 5 stars
9/11/11 Captain00Kirk Strong performances in a strong, gritty film. 5 stars
11/17/09 Stephanie Garcia very sad story. 4 stars
10/23/09 Rachel It was an alright movie, but I wouldn't watch it more than once. 3 stars
8/13/08 Shaun Wallner Well Made! 5 stars
4/25/08 beau ricci and theron were no doubt outstanding. made really well 4 stars
12/23/07 what is everyone's problem? Charlize deserved that oscar. it was as though she was another person in that fillm. 4 stars
12/15/07 Erika UNBELIEVABLY GREAT MOVIE! Charlize was AMAZING! 5 stars
1/30/07 David Pollastrini Normally Theron and Ricci would be hot 5 stars
1/09/07 Drew Galletti Besides Theron's ugly acting, there is nothing of note about this movie 1 stars
1/09/07 CJBlalock Scary what women are capable of if they're abused enough. 5 stars
6/14/06 Lisa Great acting. Fantastic make up. Fascinating story. 5 stars
4/11/06 RUDY GOOD STORY 4 stars
1/02/06 cody a great story but the flim didn't keep me interested through, but charlize gives great perf 3 stars
10/01/05 wil j. Ricci played it near perfectly 5 stars
9/09/05 Vince Very interesting performance by Theron. 4 stars
9/03/05 tatum Theron great, but Ricci's character is all wrong 4 stars
8/19/05 ES Theron acted just like Wuornos, but the story is terrible & she's a B blonde actor at best 1 stars
8/03/05 Sean Davis Charlize Theron brings female acting to a new level. Well deserved Oscar. 5 stars
7/06/05 Pinkline Jones Ricci just as outstanding 4 stars
7/03/05 Eddie Good story 4 stars
7/02/05 Indrid Cold Somewhat overrated, but still Theron is fascinating. 4 stars
3/23/05 clinger26 oh god no, oh jesus, jesus christ no.. ugh ugh 1 stars
2/15/05 Mikey This movie is so bad, don't spend your money on it 1 stars
2/05/05 xxplosive Waste of time and money, total crap. 1 stars
1/15/05 Jeff Anderson A great, great film. Charlize Theron deserved her Oscar for her absolute triumph of acting. 5 stars
12/23/04 Nick Boyd Charlize Theron gives an unforgetable performance 5 stars
10/13/04 TheOthersFan depressing 5 stars
10/13/04 Kyle I've no problem with Theron winning the Oscar for this performance. GREAT! 5 stars
7/25/04 lissa it was an awesome move!!! 5 stars
7/21/04 Steve Adams Charlize Theron rocks! 4 stars
7/21/04 April Gupton great performance, but wow was she hard to look at 4 stars
7/20/04 geno vezina reality can be a painful experience to watch and this film packs a wallop. 5 stars
7/18/04 Richard not so good 2 stars
7/18/04 Onyeabo Monago I think Charlize gave a spooky great performance! 4 stars
7/17/04 legend An amazing performance by Charlize Theron as a killer. 5 stars
7/09/04 Melissa McCord Not that good. A little too weird 2 stars
7/08/04 Denise good story but she got the award because she looked like crap 3 stars
6/29/04 Elena Amaro Good movie 5 stars
6/24/04 maryann excellent movie kept me watching deff 5 stars
6/21/04 silver10 this was hard to watch. i felt bad when she shot father time after he saw she had a gun. 4 stars
6/07/04 BooBoo Very Good. Theron deserved her Oscar 5 stars
5/30/04 Blakers a great film I loved it. 5 stars
4/11/04 Alan Liddle Over done 3 stars
3/30/04 Arlene Titshaw I wish charlize theron had her oscar, golden globe, etc all up her ass! 1 stars
3/29/04 Veronica It was one of the best movies I've ever seen. 5 stars
3/22/04 john bale Theron and Ricci brilliant as Thelma and Louise from Hell. Gritty and powerful stuff. 5 stars
3/20/04 Matthew Smith Theron is Outstanding in one of the year's best 5 stars
3/19/04 michelle charlize is so beautiful .. but nicole is going to be a better actress you guys! 5 stars
3/13/04 Cheryl Conway Think, Jenna! One can't eat out what one doesn't have! 1 stars
3/12/04 Jenna Furr CT sweeps Bst Actrss "awards" in ultimate ballbusting role. Eat yur heart out, Ashley Judd! 1 stars
2/27/04 Reini Urban Really an experience. Never saw anyone better than Theron, and I saw a lot. 5 stars
2/26/04 me awesome 5 stars
2/15/04 Maximus Stellar performance from Theron 5 stars
2/06/04 LIAM JACKSON Aileen's 'victims' were evil scum that tried to rape her.she is no monster, shes a hero! 5 stars
2/05/04 Charlize seems to overact, but perhaps the real Aileen was like that. Escargot 3 stars
2/04/04 Wendy Carpenter In spite of itself, reveals that Aileen Wuornos WAS a murderous monster, pure and simple. 2 stars
2/01/04 Bill Teommey Bok Choy nails it. Life dealt the murderer cards that made her ending inevitable. 5 stars
1/31/04 malcolm Theron was brilliant, but an average film overall, it's no 'Boys Don't Cry' 3 stars
1/28/04 Mucki It was alright, although it made me squirm in my seat 3 stars
1/24/04 ROY L. CAIN,JR. Strong performances from Ms. Theron & Ms. Ricci. Cheers! 5 stars
1/21/04 smartmusician Shows partially Aileen Wurro's life 3 stars
1/20/04 DHite Good. It's impressive when a movie can make a murderer look even slightly sypmathetic 4 stars
1/12/04 Lethal Injection was too good for Aileen Wuornos She should have been made to choke to death on her own shit! 1 stars
1/11/04 Collin Souter Thanks for the criticism, SOCS. Next time, please send an email. 3 stars
1/11/04 Shame on Collin Souter There ARE evil women! Time to call THEM "scumbags", not their victims! 1 stars
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  24-Dec-2003 (R)
  DVD: 25-Jan-2005



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