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Movie Review: "Monster"

This is difficult material, and I don't necessarily recommend this film for everyone, even though it is, as Roger Ebert wrote, one of the great performances in the history of the movies by Charlize Theron.

Never mind the incredible job that was done both by Theron, in gaining weight, and by her makeup artists, in transforming one of the movies' most glamorous actresses into Aileen Wuornos, who was characterized as "the nation's first female serial killer" (though this may not be completely true). This is all based on a true story, and I have seen photos of the real Wuornos and Theron's resemblance is absolutely uncanny.

What's even more incredible is the way Theron doesn't "act" in this film. She actually becomes the character, inhabits her body and mind, and you at no time have the sense that she is putting in a "performance", and in such a way that you really begin to understand how this woman, who seems so incredibly unsympathetic a human being (can't get a job, wants to spend her entire days drinking beer and 'partying', and winds up robbing and killing men after one attacks her, though there's more to the story than that), could have been driven to do what she did.

There's a sub-story here too, about Wuornos' lesbian girlfriend, although the character (played with what seems like total detachment, though I think that's probably what the girlfriend really felt, as she was only 18 and had been "sent" to Florida by her parents to "cure" her of lesbianism, by Christina Ricci) is fictionalized -- I believe the real girlfriend, who set Wuornos up for her eventual arrest, did not give her consent to be portrayed in this film.

As I said, it's difficult material but the performance by Theron is absolutely riveting. She ought to at the very least get an Oscar nomination for this role, if not the award itself, and the movie is thought-provoking, to say the least.

There is a scene near the end of the film, which I will not ruin by revealing details, where just at the point where you have worked up sympathy for Wuornos, she rips that away with one single statement. Yet, even with that, you think back to the setup of the film, which explains in part how she got that way, and you do still feel some understanding of her and her damaged psyche.

The real Aileen Wuornos killed seven men, according to the film, though one website says it was only six and she was not given a fair trial. She was executed in Florida in 2002, after spending twelve years on Death Row.

AYRating: *** 1/2