Monster (2003)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 72%
Overall Rating
Ranked #1,176
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Connections: Person: Aileen Wuornos

A dark tale based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, one of America's first female serial killers. Wuornos had a difficult and cruel childhood plagued by abuse and drug use in Michigan. She became a prostitute by the age of thirteen, the same year she became pregnant. She eventually moved to Florida where she began earning a living as a highway prostitute--servicing the desires of semi-truck drivers. The tale focuses on the nine month period between 1989 and 1990, during which Wuornos had a lesbian relationship with a woman named Selby. And during that very same time, she also began murdering her clientèle in order to get money without using sex. This turned the tables on a rather common phenomenon of female highway prostitutes being the victims of serial killers--instead Wuornos, herself, carried out the deeds of a cold-blooded killer. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: February 20, 2008
One thing that jumped out at me when I picked up my copy of Monster was the quote plastered across the front of the DVD case, a quote which states that this film features "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema." Now, you see this sort of statement casually tossed around all the time; it's not unusual to see someone proclaim that a given movie or performance was the greatest or worst thing that they've ever seen, so personally, I tend to take those comments with a grain of salt. However, this particular quote was attributed to Roger Ebert, a man that definitely knows his shit in the movie business regardless of how much I may disagree with a lot of his reviews and ratings. With over a century of cinema and millions upon millions of releases, could this movie from the bargain bin at my local Wal*Mart truly contain "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema"? Shockingly, the answer to that could very well be "yes."

A prostitute named Aileen (Charlize Theron) is the centerpiece of this story, and the film begins with her taking shelter from the rain by sitting under an overpass. As she's sitting there, we find out that she has a loaded gun and a five dollar bill, and we also discover that she's contemplating suicide. However, she soon comes to the realization that she gave some stranger a blowjob for that money, and if she didn't spend it before she killed herself, well, she would have degraded herself for free. So, she decides to spend that money before doing the deed, and with that in mind, she heads out to a local bar to drown her sorrows in booze.

As it turns out, this was no ordinary bar that she walked into; no sir, this just so happens to be a lesbian bar, and sitting inside said bar is a young lady named Selby (Christina Ricci). Selby is the polar opposite of Aileen: she's young, fresh-faced, and even though her parents disapprove of her lesbian lifestyle, she's led a good life thus far. Although Aileen isn't a lesbian, she and Selby eventually get together and decide to - platonically - sleep together that night, and from there, the two develop a relationship that is about love and understanding rather than sex and romance.

Now, that's all fine and dandy, but being happy doesn't put food on the table or a roof over their heads, so Aileen resumes turning tricks in order to bring in some cash. One particular night, Aileen meets up with a serial rapist (Lee Tergesen, who was great as always), and although he manages to bloody her face and tie her up inside his car, she is able to escape his bonds and shoot him dead. She hides this little fact away from her newfound girlfriend, however, and insists that both the abundant cash and the car that she brought home (both courtesy of her robbing this man after killing him) came from "a friend." Aileen resumes her tricking as though nothing had happened, but the next time she finds a john, she realizes that she's doing the world a favor by disposing of these vile men, so she keeps on putting them down with her trusty .38 revolver.

Based on the life and crimes of Aileen Wuornos, Monster is quite simply one hell of a great film with a gut-punch of an ending. Although some minor liberties were taken with the facts, the film basically tells us the story exactly how it happened without too much of the typical Hollywood embellishment. Yes, this particular scene may have been slightly changed, and true, that scene may have been the scriptwriter's guess as to how it happened, but the facts as presented here are much more accurate than what we usually get from these movies that are "based on true stories." This only helps the film, as watching these events unfold and knowing that they actually happened in the real world makes it all the more intense... and sad, at times.

What really makes the film stand out, however, is the exact same thing that our good friend Ebert mentioned in his review: the acting, and more specifically, the commitment to the role of Aileen by Charlize Theron. Before getting into that, let's talk about Ricci's performance, shall we? Now, I love the girl as much as the next guy, and to say her performance here was even "average" would be a lie; she turns in a damned fine performance, and in most other movies, she would be the one receiving the praise here based on this performance. However, when she's sharing the screen with Theron, there's just no competition: Theron shows exactly why she received all of that praise, and in the process, she makes her costar look positively amateurish. Not only was she extremely dedicated to portraying this woman as accurately as possible - going so far as to gain somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty pounds and donning makeup to make herself look ugly as sin - but her actual acting abilities were just phenomenal here. I've never been a huge fan of the lady, but this film almost singlehandedly converted me into one.

Even though it's far from the type of film that I normally settle down with for a night of entertainment, I'm going to have to say that Monster lives up to the hype. The storyline is perfectly executed and the characters are both sympathetic and repulsive, and the ladies that play these roles are simply flawless. This one comes highly recommended for those of you who haven't seen it yet, and for that, I think a 10/10 is warranted.
Mr. Mistoffelees #1: Mr. Mistoffelees - added February 21, 2008 at 11:10am
I have to agree with this one. It had such incredible acting and the directing was great. Especially the scene where she killed the first guy, that was painful to watch even as a male. Ouch.
danimigra #2: danimigra - added March 15, 2008 at 5:05pm
For sure one of my top 20 movies... awesome performance by Charlize Theron and is a cool view about that underground world of prostitution and how hard could be try to go back to the normal life. 10/10 is fine for me.!
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