Monster (6/10)

Copyright © 2004 by Tony Medley

 Aileen 'Lee' Wuornos was a prostitute who, instead of giving sexual favors, killed her johns. The way I remember the story was that she hated men and killed them out of vengeance.

In Monster Aileen (Charlize Theron) is pictured sympathetically, killing her johns for their cars and their money so she could party with her girl friend, Selby (Christina Ricci). At the outset, Aileen says she’s not a lesbian, but the entire movie is about her relationship with Selby. Theron has been praised for the acting job she does, and she does look terrible and does a good job of portraying Wuornos as a confused, piteous figure, one who was a prostitute street person from age 15 on. Good as she is, however, she’s unable to cry tears. Her crying scenes are as unconvincing as Sean Penn’s tearless bawling in Mystic River, just a bunch of patently phony wailing.

I don’t understand why the filmmakers wanted to portray Wuornos in such a condolatory light. She did, after all, kill at least seven men, six (if the film is accurate) in cold blood. The first was shown to be self defense. Wuornos claimed they were all self defense. But she was, after all, a prostitute, offering sexual favors in return for money. Her murders were heinously cold-blooded. What’s the point in treating them and the perpetrator with such compassion?

She and Selby are shown to be quintessential airheads. She interviews for a job as a legal secretary even though she can’t type or do anything. Rarely will you see a more contrived scene in a movie. I’d like director/screenwriter Patty Jenkins to explain how Wuornos could get in to an interview with a selection interviewer (in this instance an attorney) without 1) a resume, and 2) experience, and 3) ability. But there it is. Scenes like this rob a film of its credibility.

Selby is a true nitwit. All she does is sit in the motel waiting for Wuornos to return to do something. Unfortunately, the film never explains why this woman would be interested in developing a friendship or relationship with someone who was a dirty, ignorant, mentally impaired street person.

If Jenkins is so clueless that she can invent a scene like the interview scene mentioned above, she’s clearly not above inventing everything else in the film to create sympathy for Wuornos. Her point of view seems to be that, hey, we should understand and sympathize with this woman who killed at least seven men in cold blood because she led a hard life living as a street prostitute. What, she couldn’t go get an unskilled job? She wasn’t condemned to the street. What's wrong with janitorial work?

The apparent premise of this film can be summed up by a line from the song, Gee, Officer Krupke in West Side Story,  “We’re depraved because we’re deprived.” It’s not only dark and depressing; it contains lots of profanity and scenes of lesbian lovemaking. Maybe it’s well made, and maybe Theron does a good job of acting, and maybe it held my interest for 1:50, but no movie that tries to get me to feel sympathy for a cold blooded serial killer can be anything more than average.

February 21, 2004

The End