Saturday, 2 February 2019

Movie Review: Monster (2003)


A biographical crime drama, Monster delves into a dark world as seen through the eyes of a mass murderer.

In Daytona Beach, Florida, life is closing in on Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron). Sexually abused as a child and a prostitute since age 13, she is now seriously contemplating suicide. But a chance meeting at a gay bar with Selby Wall (Christina Ricci) gives her pause to reconsider. Selby is young, naive, and in conflict with her family about her sexuality. The two meet again at a rollerskating rink and romantic sparks ignite.

Selby believes Aileen can nurture her, while Aileen finally finds in Selby someone who will love her unconditionally. They plan to move in together to a motel room and work towards a better future. But Aileen's last client of the night turns out to be a violent rapist. She kills him in self defence, triggering traumas and a cycle of violence, derailing her attempts to reform and get a respectable job.

Inspired by Wuornos' real-life story, Monster offers the criminal's perspective without seeking sympathy or forgiveness, just understanding. Directed and written by Patty Jenkins, this is a hard-hitting story of a woman abused by life, literally and figuratively, since childhood. Prostitution is an escape parachute, a job allowing her to at least dream of something better as normalized society spits her out. But a life of servicing creeps eventually collides back with the abuse endured as a child, and now she hits back hard, snaps, and seeks the cold thrill of continued vengeance.

Into this tumultuous world stumbles the innocent Selby, escaping an emotional hell of her own but far from equipped to deal with the real world. The two women find a level of temporary solace with each other, enough of a pause to imagine an idyllic opportunity. But it's a fleeting moment, salvation is far out of reach, and Selby becomes a witness and wholly unintended enabler but always a victim.

The film is narrated by Theron as Wuornos, giving voice to marginalized women too often ignored. A physically transformed and utterly deglamorized Theron is a domineering screen presence, commanding the screen to reveal a psyche scarred beyond deliverance. Christina Ricci offers a doe-eyed and fragile counterpoint, a young woman willing to fall for anyone who simply accepts her.

Combining moments of harrowing violence with the touching flickers of humanity, Monster unfolds in decrepit motel rooms, highway underpasses, gas station toilets and the cars of men seeking the cheapest form of sex: the overlooked corners where the hopeless converge, and monsters are born.






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