Monster (USA/Germany; 111 min.)

directed by: Patty Jenkins
starring: Charlize Theron; Cristina Ricci; Bruce Dern
Bob G. says: Charlize Theron infuses the tortured soul of executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos with so much rage and pain, it's often difficult to watch her, even when she's *not* killing someone. Yet, you can't take your eyes off her either. At times it feels like Patty Jenkins' film is a bit too sympathetic towards Wuornos ---- she doesn't kill anyone who doesn't "deserve it" the script seems to imply --- but all that melts away as we see Theron meticulously tidying her crime scenes or posing with deceptive innocence by the side of the highway, in wait. In some ways, it could be a sister to the landmark film HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER... it's got that kind of hellish realism.

"Indeed, DP Steven Bernstein gives the film such a perpetually grimy look that it cements it's cohesiveness... for two hours you are immersed in Wuornos' tinted world. You swim in the dreck. Even gestures from her so-called friends ---- like Christina Ricci's Selby --- seem mired in perceived dishonesty.

"Theron's performance is so strong that it at times threatens to wipe out some very good supporting turns, including Scott Wilson's heartbreaking wrong-guy-in-the-wrong-place and Pruitt Taylor-Vince, who uses his moist, wide eyes to good effect as a timid john in way over his head. Nice soundtrack too, by --- of all people --- BT (probably the best DJ working today, but here taking a more subtle approach!).

"Like all great horror movies, this one stays with you for days. Thanks to Theron, you can't help but remember why." 4 1/2 cats

Diane says: "Belatedly.... Theron is great. Too bad Ricci is so flat and has too much
screen time. I didn't catch the chemistry between them, so that detracted
a lot from the story." 3 cats
Michael says: Despite the acclaim and accolades this film has been receiving, I was wary of it before I went. As many know, MONSTER tells the based on a true story of serial killer Aileen Wournos, played with much publicity by former model Charlize Theron. Theron gained 30 pounds, and "uglied" up to play the role of a serial killer who was recently put to death in Texas. Patty Jenkins chose Wournos' story for her first film... there's a lot in common here with Kimberly Pierce and BOYS DON'T CRY. For all of those reasons, I was skeptical. I'd heard the raves about Theron... but come on, Charlize Theron? Did anyone see THE CIDER HOUSE RULES? And that was one of her 'better' roles.

"But Theron... and MONSTER worked. They worked incredibly hard, and incredibly well. Let me say up front, the story is incredibly romanticized, and while this could be a complaint of the film (for those looking for a certain degree of accuracy - to which I say, just watch a documentary) I found it to be an incredible asset. By focusing on the relationship between Wournos and her girlfriend Selby, Jenkins gives the audience a connection for the audience. What really mattered was how the actors coupled with the screenlay, could make that relationship ring true.

"I admit it... Charlize Theron was incredible. I don't know where she got it from, but she dug deep and found a passionate, frightening, tortured character somewhere inside of her and brought it to the fore. It was so much more than the appearance, Theron really transformed herself. She was utterly convincing as this troubled drifter with a wretched past, a dismal present, and no future. The horror, rage, and adrenaline rush she conveys after being brutally raped, and in turn murdering her first victim was frightening in its primal passion. Her struggle to find an ounce of dignity in her capacity to love Selby, no matter how hopeless and monstrous the situation around her was is captured beautifully by Theron. It's a remarkably impressive performance.

"No less so, is Cristina Ricci's as Selby. Her character is perhaps even more difficult to portray convincingly. Here is a young woman, also lost and searching, with a Bible-thumping family urging her to reject herself, she throws her life into the hands of a homeless, penniless hooker on faith and love alone. Gradually she becomes aware of the violence surrounding Aileen, and manages to show her characters fear, love, determination, and resignation realistically. Look for both Theron and Ricci to show up on my nomination ballot a year from now.

"This is a tough film, not only for the violence of the murders, but for the emotional depths these women must plumb, then bare on screen. I was startled by the emotional impact with which MONSTER struck me. There are a couple of strained moments, but those are negligible compared to the film as a whole. Strong supporting roles made the details more resonant. Jenkins should be incredibly proud of her achievement in this, her first feature film. I highly recommend this to everyone." 4 1/2 cats (and I'm tempted to go with 5!)

Peg says: "Saw this yesterday. A very gripping and intense character study of a female serial killer (based upon a true story). Charlize Theron is Aileen, an uneducated but resilient woman who has worked as a prostitute since she was 13 years old. When she meets and falls in love with a naive young lesbian, Selby (Christina Ricci, who has finally put on a little weight and might even be, oh, a size six), Aileen wants to turn her life
around. She wants to get a real job, but with no idea of how to dress or act during an interview, she fails dismally. But to get some money together she continues hooking: her very unsafe M.O. involves hitching a ride with passing cars on the highway. When a psycho brutalizes and subdues her and appears to be planning to murder her, she manages to pull a gun on him and shoot him and steals his car. Afterwards she seems to find it easier and easier to dispatch her johns, even the nice ones with kids and crippled wives at home, even men who give her rides who aren't interested in sex.

"This film has terrific pacing and cinematography, but the real marvel is Charlize Theron: metamorphosed from a tall, slender, gleaming starlet who looks like she's spent half her life in a Swedish spa, to a tall, flabby, ruddy-skinned woman with greasy hair and badly-capped teeth, who swaggers in her cargo pants and suede moccasin boots, smoking, drinking, starting fights in restaurants, justifying her choices in life to anyone who will listen.

" I must admit I have some issues with the idea that a beautiful actress (or actor) needs to be "uglified" to play a role. It's one thing to do this to show transformation (like DeNiro in Raging Bull), and please don't tell me Renee Zellweger made any big sacrifices putting on twenty pounds to play Bridget Jones. But aren't there plenty of, well, average-looking actors out there? Just a thought. But Theron's performance
is so stunningly good, she is so unabashedly naked in all senses of the word, that I can honestly not picture any other actress having played this role. then again, if I'd been asked beforehand who I thought should play it, she would not even have been in the top 500 people I could name. If she does not win at least one major award for this,
there is no God."

Janet says: "Charlize Theron's portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos requires more than talent; a combination of toughness, horror, and real moments of delight and humor, it reflects of a real understanding of human nature. You have to do a lot of observing throughout life to come up with a characterization this good. The top-notch performance of an androgynous, swaggering female character, the sense of inevitability surrounding what we know are true events with an abysmal outcome, and a key scene involving a horrendous rape all remind the viewer of Chlotrudis favorite BOYS DON'T CRY starring Hilary Swank.

"While Theron and love interest Christina Ricci are an interesting pairup in physical terms, Ricci unfortunately does not reach for near the complexity Theron does. (Is Ricci's character Selby Wall a naive who Wuornos protects, or does she essentiallly become Wuornos's pimp?) Her scenes with Theron seem off-the-cuff, purely reactive.

"Rather than present Wuornos as the freak the title might imply, the effective screenplay highlights the similarities between an outcast like Wuornos and the rest of us. All of us want to earn a living, to have a comfortable place to live, and to cherish and protect someone. The choices this character makes, the movie makes clear, are just a matter of judgment, resources, and degree. The role of an unforgiving and intolerant society in this story will provide worthwhile discussion for all brave moviegoers."