(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)
I just went to Rotten Tomatoes to see how far out of the mainstream I'm going to be with this review. Only 25 of the 129 reviews are bad. Make that 26. Monster has been getting lots of press, particularly about the lead actress, Charlize Theron, playing the part of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Theron has already won the Golden Globe for the part and she is nominated for an Oscar as well. That being said, I hated Monster and I thought Theron was the worst thing in it. Monster follows Theron as Wuornos through her last year of freedom. She is a big time loser, making a grim living as a hooker on the Interstate. Two things suddenly change her life. One night she walks into a gay bar by mistake and falls for a young woman (Christina Ricci), she meets there. Under pressure from Ricci to bring in more money and after a particularly brutal encounter with a "John," Theron starts murdering her clients. Other than Ricci, Theron's only friend is a old barfly (Bruce Dern) she drinks with.
This is the role of a lifetime for Theron who also is a Producer on the film. She has been heavily made up to the point of being pretty much unrecognizable, much as Nicole Kidman was for her role of Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Kidman won the Oscar last year for The Hours. But that is the only thing that Kidman and Theron have in common. I loved Kidman's portrayal of Woolf. Theron plays Wuornos like she's in a bad Saturday Night Live sketch. Her character, if you can call it that, is made up of a collection of tics and idiosyncrasies. Her reaction to anything that happens to her in the movie, is to pull on her cigarette, shake her head and look off blankly into the distance, perhaps worried that her plastic face is about to fall off. Ricci, who is usually quite good, is badly miscast here and looks very uncomfortable through the whole movie. The only ray of light in Monster is a brief appearance by Bruce Dern. I've always loved him. He kind of perfected the "crazy" role before Dennis Hopper did starting with Silent Running and The Cowboys.
Besides loving Theron's role, most reviewers are not that thrilled with the rest of the movie. It's not very well written. Since it's such a horrible depressing story, you would hope for some insight into the characters and why they are doing what they are doing. But you just hear that Theron/Wuornos was abused as a child and that is apparently enough to set her on the path to becoming a serial killer. Neither do you ever get any understanding into why the Theron and Ricci characters get together. Ricci just appears clueless through the whole movie. I think an experienced director might have reined in Theron's "performance'' and given Ricci a little focus. But Monster is Patty Jenkins first big feature and I think she let Theron call the shots. All through the movie, I just kept hoping that the final credits would roll and put me out of my misery. I feel like telling you not to bother seeing this movie but you should probably decide for yourselves. On February 29th, Theron will probably win the Oscar for Best Actress.