If the numerous descriptions and re-enactments of her life and
crimes are even halfway close to the truth, then there is little
doubt Aileen Wuornos was indeed a monster. Even if, as she claims,
her first kill was in self defence as the result of a brutal rape,
her subsequent killing spree erases all pity we might have felt.
That she did it all for love, or the lack of it, as this film
suggests, is an explanation but certainly not an excuse. Thankfully
it is never offered as one. There are no excuses. There is no
doubt as to what happened and how. All this film can attempt to
illuminate is why.
Within the bounds that the filmmakers have so obviously set for
themselves, they are extraordinarily successful. I was in turns
disgusted, moved and enthralled. I couldn't keep my eyes off this
creature on the screen, as much as I so desperately wanted to
look away. Truly Charlize Theron has given one of the great performances.
It wasn't just about weight gain or ugliness or facial prosthetics.
This was a true transformation. There wasn't an iota of Charlize
Theron left on that screen. It was all character. I'm saying this
just to get that aspect of it out of the way. Enough superlatives
have been directed towards Theron for this performance, I just
needed to say I agree. I think Ricci was robbed of a supporting
actress nomination, (her moment-to-moment, spontaneous performance
is wonderful) but none of the praise heaped on Theron is at all
What interested me most about Monster was the amount of time
spent exploring how the love between Lee and Selby develops and
grows - the mutual alienation that so quickly becomes obsession.
They could have easily chosen to put more of the focus on Aileen
the killer, rather than Aileen the person. That's what separates
this from your average serial killer movie. The filmmakers seem
to instinctively understand the audience's need to know why Selby
Wall was attracted to Lee, why she stayed, and the devastation
she felt when finally forced to leave.
I'm sure that in the end Aileen probably did not see Selby's
actions or her testimony as a betrayal. It was a necessity. I
think I was shocked most of all by how intimate and (yes, I'm
going to say it) sexy their interactions were. I was not expecting
a love story with this much power. Their relationship was driven
by the most base emotions: loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy,
desperation. There was a pure need between them that despite how
we feel about Wuornos we cannot, as an audience, help responding
to. Even her gross physical appearance is not a distraction.
When she first met Wournos, Selby Wall was young, stupid and
desperately seeking a unconditional acceptance of her fledgling
gay identity. She's been tossed from one family member to another,
suffering under a hammering of religious lecturing and threats
of abondonment. Wuornos came from a harrowing background, almost
to the point of torture.
If there were any doubts that the film would lay the bulk of
the blame for Wuornos's pathology on her twisted childhood they
are quickly dispelled. Of course there is an element of social
responsibility. Liberal-minded people have long since come to
the agreement that most psychopaths are made, not born, through
years of systematic abuse. Certainly there may be examples of
people being evil from the womb, but the film posits that this
was not the case with Wuornos. She, and her evil, were the product
of her environment.
Take one person starting out in life, and add another volatile
personality giving life one last chance, and you get the story
Theron obviously feels empathy and charity for wuornos, and that
comes across in her performance. We feel that through Wuornos's
last ditch attempts at a legitimate life, through her death spiral,
right down to the horrifying execution of the man who tries to
help but must inevitably be sacrificed because he is a witness.
We see it in the tremendous attention to detail: her nervous twitchings,
the way she touches her hair and her clothes and the way she shakes
back her shoulders with misplaced dignity and pride. Wuornos is
not being objectified by this portrayal, she's being inhabited.
It's almost uncanny, freakish. Moments of peace are juxtaposed
with moments of pure violence, which I can't help imagining sums
up the subject to a tee.
I followed the love story through to its grisly conclusion, and
left shaking my head. On the one hand I know this story is based
on truth and in a sense needed to be told, but on the other hand
I can't help despairing that once more we see lesbian passion
onscreen as something to be feared and loathed.
To its credit, the film does try to distance itself from attributing
any of the blame for Wuornos's violence on her love for another
woman. Selby's religious family is presented for exactly that
purpose, to show the film's disdain for homophobia. It is made
clear to anyone who watches carefully enough that it was the mixture
of their personalities, not their genders, that was the lethal
combination for Wuornos and Wall. The problem is, what effect
does it have on all those people who are already predisposed to
thinking of murder and homosexuality as moral crimes on par with
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