Beautiful Monster

Carrie Cleaveland

With the Academy Awards a little over a month away, I used this past weekend as an opportunity to catch up on some of my unseen nominees; considering the buzz surrounding Charlize Theron’s performance and Golden Globe win, Monster seemed an excellent place to start. I am heartily ashamed at myself for letting Monster go unseen for so long. The movie is indescribably powerful, and boasts by far the most stellar performance of the year.

Based on the true story of prostitute-turned-serial killer Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), writer/director Patty Jenkins masterfully creates a film that forces us to love an otherwise unlovable character. Thoughts immediately spiral to films such as Dead Man Walking, which accomplished a similar end. The film does not try to justify Aileen’s unconscionable actions, but rather tries to promote understanding of them; we come to pity Aileen, not approve of her.

The plot progresses a little too slowly at times, but never drags. Despite a relatively simple story, the film sustains constant tension, continually drawing audiences further into Aileen’s life, emotions, and complications. Investment in the course of Aileen’s life is unavoidable, exhausting, but ultimately a remarkable theatrical ride. The difference between a good movie and a great one lies in whether or not it lingers on the mind or emotions after leaving the theater.

Never before have I seen such a complete and powerful transformation into a character as with Theron in this film. Her performance is absolutely astounding, and I continue to be blown away. The physical make-under of one of Hollywood’s most beautiful women occupies about five minutes of attention; for the remainder of the film, you watch Aileen, not an actress playing her or the proficiency of Theron’s make-up artists.

Christina Ricci portrays Selby, Aileen’s girlfriend during the years of the murders. Ricci is an extraordinary actress and delivers an equally remarkable performance in Monster. Next to Theron, however, it appears paltry, hopelessly overshadowed, and unfortunately forgettable.

I don’t know whether to attribute the film’s power and passion to Jenkins’ incredible force behind the film or to Theron’s equally incredible force now guiding it. Either way (or both ways), Monster is a great film, exhilarating and entertaining. A-