Wrapping up our look back at five must-see films from the stars of the latest Jason Reitman comedy, “Young Adult” (4 / 5 stars), let’s examine the grisly picture, “Monster” (2003).
Featuring one of the all-time best performances in movie history, Charlize Theron is utterly unforgettable as a prostitute turned serial killer.
Although this film is difficult to watch, it’s required viewing for anyone who appreciates the art of acting.
(For other films reviewed in this series, we also examined the coming-of-age story, “The Cider House Rules” (1999) and a grim military mystery, “In the Valley of Elah” (2007) starring Theron, an intense drama about an obsessive football fanatic, “Big Fan” (2009) starring Patton Oswalt, and a highly fascinating suburban drama, “Little Children” (2006) starring Patrick Wilson).
“Monster” (2003) 4 / 5 stars – In writer/director Patty Jenkins’s stunning film, Charlize Theron is completely unrecognizable as she becomes Aileen Wuornos, a very troubled prostitute who turns into a serial killer.
Although, I have no experience with makeup, I could not detect any cosmetics on Theron’s face – used to intentionally damage her looks – during the entire 1 hour 49 minute runtime.
In addition, Theron gained unflattering weight for the role, but the most remarkable part of her metamorphosis into the infamous killer was her talent as an actress while Jenkins painted Ms. Wuornos’s life with a complex brush.
Working as a hooker by age 13, the years of this impossible profession have not only worn Aileen down physically, but emotionally too.
With arrested development and at least an acute bout of alcoholism, Aileen’s damaged soul wears scars resembling a collection of warped demons which spew out at the slightest bit of conflict.
Living on the streets, her sense of reality is twisted beyond normal standard deviations as well, but does try to make positive change in her life.
At one point, Aileen tells her girlfriend Selby (Christina Ricci) that she’s given up hooking.
She wants to land a real job, like a veterinarian or a business person, but her interviews go horribly awry.
Although the will exists, Aileen needs a total makeover, years of therapy and an extensive crash course in manners from Professor Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” before any such indoctrination into modern society can be attempted.
Unfortunately, without the wherewithal and insight to know the path to recovery, impending doom is much more likely, and Theron takes us on Aileen’s frightening and disturbing journey.
Aileen is a complete mess.
She smokes too much.
She’s caustic, and talks in weird code sometimes like, “I’m doing it up royal.”
With no real education or positive experiences to fall back upon, she dangerously delusional in finding her way to a better life.
Along the way, her aforementioned girlfriend, Selby, isn’t much help.
Not comprehending the full depth of Aileen’s problems, Selby volleys between her role as a concerned loved one and a regrettable enabler.
This is a tragic and brutal story.
How can a human being get to this point?
Jenkins spells out obvious catalysts: the physical and sexual abuse Aileen suffered prior to her life on the streets and also the vile harm experienced in her chosen profession.
Regardless of past circumstances, Aileen leaves a bloody, malevolent and murderous carnage in her path.
“Monster” is an ugly ride, and in the process, Theron truly delivers one of the most staggering performances in movie history.
Theron is beyond astounding here, and yes, also completely unrecognizable.
“Monster” is rated R and available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Jeff Mitchell is on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic