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Monster

Year: 2003
Production Co: Media 8 Entertainment
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Pruitt Taylor Vince
South African sex bomb Charlize Theron has now joined the big leagues thanks to her Oscar win portraying real life trailer trash prostitute and murderer Aileen Wuornos who was executed in 2002 after killing six men.

After a career full of roles of varying degrees of seriousness (but always looking drop dead gorgeous), Theron has hit critical paydirt by transforming herself from a slender, willowy beauty to a skanky, foul mouthed, mullet-wearing ho with stained and crooked teeth.

Physically, the change is amazing – only the teeth are fake. For the rest, Theron spent hours in the make-up chair, put on weight, rubbed grease in her hair and dressed courtesy of a trucker's girl fashion boutique.

Was the performance Oscar-worthy? Maybe it was the best choice this year, but it isn't the best you've ever seen. It may be that she's so beautiful she just doesn't grasp being plain – at times it's hammy and too forced. Her lower class flourishes like the repeated uttering of the line 'Well, shee-it!' are just this side of ridiculous and overdone, and her over-eagerness almost hobbles the performance.

But what about the movie? Most discussion has centered on Theron's portrayal of Wuornos rather than the downfall that led to her execution.

After a lifetime of hard knocks (she claims to have been a prostitute since 13, although time and again reveals herself to be opportunistic and flexible with the truth to further her interests), Wuornos is sitting under a bridge deciding that after a final drink, she'll kill herself.

She meets the doe-eyed young Selby Wall in a bar (Ricci), the girl who'll be the only person she'll ever love. Struggling with her emerging homosexuality after her staunch Christian family have done anything to try to 'cure' her of being a lesbian, Wall just want someone to talk to and immediately tries to connect with Wuornos, although the attraction is never entirely clear.

For her part Wuornos just wants a free drink, but the two become friends over the course of the night and start seeing each other more often, falling into something like love. As Wuornos rationalises during the voiceover, she'll never love a man again after they way so many have treated her, so she might as well. Their relationship deepens and while it's unlikely Selby has 'turned her into' a lesbian, it's enough that she's found love of any sort in her life.

Desperate for their relationship to survive, Wuornos tries her hardest to leave roadside sex and blowjobs for ten dollars a time and get legitimate work, but her history and manner are her own barriers to escaping her life, and in desperation she returns to her stomping ground of Florida's highways.

Unwittingly picking up a psycho who punches and ties her up, Wuornos escapes in time to turn her gun on him, and Monster's apparent messages comes into focus; it is sympathetic to Wuornos because she's a victim of the circumstances of her life. The real monsters are the world around her and the people in it who don't care except to take a piece of her self-respect or dignity away.

In another scene, one of her customers turns out to be a kindly and nervous man who it's plain doesn't deserve to die. When she lets him go, you can feel your emotions being manipulated. Wuornos seems nothing more than a typical movie hero dispensing justice upon the evil and deliverance to the good.

But then, to the film's credit, it doesn't stay a black and white, good guys and bad guys movie. Desperation for money and staying one step ahead of the law send Wuornos into a downhill slide of judgment. She kills a retired cop who it turns out has a disabled wife, then a man who just wants to help her but who dies pleading for his life.

The final scene is heartbreaking whether you believe Wuronos deserved to die or not, and in that respect Monster will do what all movies should but few achieve; it'll get people talking and thinking.

What we should all hope for however is that it gets people talking about issues like the death penalty and poverty in the supposedly prosperous economies of the western world, not just how amazing it is when a beautiful actress plays ugly for an award.

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