There is no possible reason to endure the ordeal except for the inspired performance of Charlize Theron


An Illusion review by Joan Ellis        

                “Monster” is a movie of unrelenting ugliness.  There is no possible reason to endure the ordeal except for the inspired performance of Charlize Theron as a street hooker – and that just may be enough.   In stepping entirely out of character, physically and emotionally, Theron accomplishes the impossible by being entirely consistent in creating serial killer Lee Wuornos.  She never once missteps.

                At thirteen Wuornos went from a childhood of abuse and squalor to a life of prostitution.  She walks the roads until a man – there is always another one – pulls over, picks her up, tells her what he wants, pays her and drives off.  Their cars are her workplace.   

                Only when she meets Selby Wall (Christina Ricci) in a gay bar, does Lee begin to think of another way of life.  Selby has been sent by her father to live with her aunt and uncle whose assignment is to cure her of her homosexuality.  She is selfish to the core, urging Lee to earn more money to finance her own material dreams.  Lee, who is thinking about a real job and a normal life with Selby, cannot tame her rage at men through even one job interview and returns again to the street. 

                After a brutal customer takes her to a remote spot, fuels himself with alcohol and beats her senseless, she shoots him dead with his own gun, takes his car, and rides away with a rush of new entitlement.  Emboldened by anger, she shoots seven men over time including one who was just giving her a ride.  Eventually, she is caught, and finally executed.  That’s a short summary of a terrible true story.  Sad to say, the movie around Theron is not particularly well written or acted, and this puts the entire focus on Theron; but look what she does with it. 

                She uses the predictable scenario of childhood abuse, prostitution, revenge, and death to show us that such a life does not just put people on the wrong track, it deprives them completely of the tools they  need for even the most basic human interaction.  Lee has never known a decent person.  She can’t give or receive love because she doesn’t even know what that means.  She rages because she cannot figure out how to catch even a moment of life off the streets.   After a while you can see behind her rage, not to the person she might have been, but to the bewilderment at her core.  It’s remarkable.

                Without the make-up people, Theron’s lanky beauty, even in dishevelment, would have undercut her, but they have given her not only an uncanny likeness to Lee Wuornos, but the worn look of a life of utter humiliation – skin puffed and blotched by alcohol and, most effectively, teeth that change both her appearance and her speech.  She shows us Lee’s degradation with a deafening bravado that reveals the anxiety that controls her. You’ll forget the movie, but you won’t forget the performance of Charlize Theron.             


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