- Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos
- Christina Ricci as Selby Wall
- Bruce Dern as Thomas
- Lee Tergesen as Vincent Corey
Monster is based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who killed six men between 1989 and 1990 and was eventually sentenced to death after years on death row. Patty Jenkins directs and writes the screenplay for this brutal and intense look at Aileen Wuornos and features a raw, unrecognisable and blisteringly powerful performance by Charlize Theron, that deservedly won her the Best Actress Oscar. It may be tough to watch at times, but the performances and the way it examines the damaged soul of Aileen Wuornos is what gives Monster an unforgettable amount of strength.
At the beginning of the film, we hear Aileen’s voice explaining about her dreams as a child. These are light shots of the fresh-faced little girl wanting to be a movie star. Then, we see the reality of it all. Aileen, alone on the highway, her face puffed up, her eyes like a wounded animal, contemplating suicide with a gun in her hand. Before she decides whether to kill herself, she walks into a bar to order a drink. It is here she meets Selby Wall, a naive, painfully shy outcast lesbian, who has been sent to live with family friends in order to “cure” her lesbianism. Although Aileen insists she isn’t a lesbian, she strikes up a deep emotional bond and eventually a relationship with Selby and finally feels she can connect with someone after the abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of men. Feeling a connection to her, Aileen attempts to get a real decent job, instead of being a prostitute. Try as she might, with no qualifications, she is turned down at every opportunity. Wanting to provide and survive now that she has Selby, Aileen returns to prostitution. One night a client goes too far and in a particularly graphic scene, rapes her. In self-defense, she shoots him dead and hides his body, later she takes his car. This assault on her sets of Aileen’s anger and rage towards men and she continues to work as a prostitute, but descends into killing her clients, even if they are innocent.
What is interesting to watch in Monster is the way it shows Aileen. Unlike the tabloids that often sensationalize serial killers and not focus on why they committed the acts, Monster delves into the damaged psyche of Aileen and strangely, gets the audience to sympathise with her. The screenplay by Patty Jenkins doesn’t say that what Aileen did was right, but gives us reasons as to what drove her into killing. Because of this, Aileen emerges as a multi dimensional character, rather than just a brutal serial killer. Most of this is down to the staggering and no holds barred performance by Charlize Theron. Theron is unrecognisable as Wuornos, she gained weight for the part, wore dental prosthetics and embodied many of her mannerisms with eerie similarity. You see Charlize Theron does not just play Aileen, she becomes her. We get a portrait of a damaged woman who has had to fend for herself after abuse and distrust and Theron shows both the vulnerability and coldness to her character. Charlize Theron thoroughly merited her Oscar for this powerful portrayal. Ably supporting her is Christina Ricci as Aileen’s lover, Selby. Ricci plays her with a naive way but also a spoilt and manipulative side in the case of wanting better things from Aileen. Selby’s introduction serves somewhat as a catalyst for the story, Aileen believes she can finally connect with someone and trust them. The relationship between the two is another interesting facet to the movie. We, as the audience may never know why Aileen did what she did, but Monster provides us with a gritty, interesting examination of a woman’s damaged soul and the consequences of her emotional scars.
Whether viewed as a portrait of a doomed relationship between two outcasts or as a study of a woman who was mistreated and in turn took matters into her own hands in her own way, Monster is still startling yet powerful viewing. Aided by the unforgettable performance of Charlize Theron , sterling support by Christina Ricci and Patty Jenkins gritty but sensitive direction , Monster is a film that is not easy to forget after viewing it.