Movie Review
Monster poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published January 2, 2004
US Release: December 26, 2003

Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Charlize Theron , Christina Ricci

Running Time: 110 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $34,468,224
What sort of holds the film together through the ugliness of the story and the rather bland style of {director} Jenkins? presentation is {Charlize} Theron.
There are only a few reasons I can recommend Monster to a filmgoer, and one of them is to see Charlize Theron in what might end up being the highlight performance of her career. That factor happens to the biggest purpose the film has wrapped up; besides that note, the movie really doesn?t have much to offer.

The film is a character study that doesn?t really study its character; the experience is literally equivalent to taking a visit to a lower-class neighborhood, stepping inside a family?s corridors, and witnessing whatever potential hell that may result from a bickering family. We watch our anti-hero in her struggle of achieving purpose, yet with her crazed and unnatural behavior, and unnecessary language use, it can be very much of a struggle to accept her, let alone root for her.

For a good portion of the movie, I found myself asking writer/director Patty Jenkins why exactly I was supposed to invest compassion for the main character. Despite appearing to be in good intentions at first sight, the persona is an unpleasant, crazy woman who needs a lot of help to regain mental stability, which may or may not even be possible with her current state of mind.

This is a film where storytelling could be the key to success, as well as the director?s style of presentation. Unfortunately, the storytelling is rather lazy, never establishing much insight beyond generalities of our primary character that we could probably just assume for ourselves without even having to be told. Visually, Jenkins tells the story rather ordinarily and rarely introduces tension or intrigue, with simple and rather boring set pieces with characters engaging in simple dialogue. Dialogue in simple situations can be captivating, but there is no such term in this film?s vocabulary; characters will talk, but not often about anything fascinating or worth our attention.

Based on a true story, Monster tells the life of Aileen Wuornos, played to utter perfection by Charlize Theron. As a prostitute carrying a depressing history, her ugly past and likely hopeless future never fades from her mind, causing sudden explosions of anger, murdering her customers as a result. Discovering a new best friend on the road (Selby, played by Christina Ricci), the two attempt to make a life out of their possible lesbian relationship and criminal debacles that come into way. Selby is not involved in Aileen?s destructive path, but she is likely the only thing keeping Aileen from total insanity if not committing suicide.

Having first seen the trailer for Monster and failing to realize until the end that Charlize Theron was even in the movie, I do have to give the film tremendous props for not only her commanding performance, but making Theron almost unrecognizable in this unattractive role. However, that component is unfortunately one of the few bright points the production has going for it.

Story wise, the film only had me caring at a few small, distinct spots that didn?t last long. And even so, my compassion was only in the hearts of the unfortunate customers involved and the innocent bystanders whom were intertwined in the violent but not lethal outbursts. The acting by Aileen?s last victim hit me pretty hard with the scene?s terrifying realism, but was one of the few occasions where I truly felt impacted by the events that unfolded.

There was never a point when I cared about Aileen (and we never truly understand her), but I did have greater empathy for Selby?s situation nearing the end (and did feel that Ricci?s performance in Anything Else was better, as I didn?t really see her use here). What sort of holds the film together through the ugliness of the story and the rather bland style of Jenkins? presentation is Theron. Between the excellent makeup job making the actress look like total white trash, along with the extra weight she was likely to have put on for the role, Theron couldn?t look any more the part (and her aggressive, physical performance aids in the astonishing delivery).

This is a movie where a single performance can be the reason for attending (with the performance also mirroring Hayden Christensen?s surprise talent in Shattered Glass, except that movie is quite a bit better). Albeit that element, the film is mediocre, making Monster a mixed bag in general. But since I did make it through the whole film without a lot of whining (due to Theron?s delivery), I?m going to give it a reasonable and yes, recommending rating status.

Because Charlize Theron has never been known for a role of this caliber (and with the occasion baring a chance of being a solo accomplishment for the actress?s career), I?m going to reward the film with the points accordingly, but you have been warned.
Lee's Grade: B-
Lee's Overall Grading: 3025 graded movies
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'Monster' Articles
  • Stephen's review B
    February 22, 2004    Monster inspired opinions from me, which is a quality I always admire in films of all types, and I can?t say that I wasn?t invested in it the entire way through. -- Stephen Lucas