February 4, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 69  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Jenkins & Theron: a monstrous achievement

By Kelly Marcella
Gazette Staff


Monster

Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
Written and Directed by: Patti Jenkins

Critics and movie goers alike have given overflowing praise to Monster, and with good reason: this film succeeds in delivering the creepy and disturbing account of one of America’s only female serial killers.

Detailing the true story of prostitute Aileen “Lee” Wuornos, Monster reveals the underscoring attitudes and causes that resulted in the killing of six Florida men, including one police officer. Though hailed as a “monster,” Jenkins’ powerful characterization of Wuornos reveals the harsh realities of a life without love, as well as the effects that horrible acts such as rape and assault have on a shattered personality.

In one of the most pivotal performances on film, Theron is stunning as the film’s title character. Her transformation from beautiful Hollywood goddess to street-worn prostitute is so convincing it’s difficult to remember who you’re watching.

As Wuornos, Theron delivers an impeccable performance, portraying the effects of hardships on a broken woman. She manages to capture the drive in the character when she finally finds love in Selby Wall (Ricci), without once removing or allowing the audience to forget her devastating and inescapable past from which she cannot escape. Theron’s searing and emotional performance makes her Golden Globe victory and Oscar nomination well-deserved.

As Wall, Wuornos’s newfound lover, Ricci delivers a strong supporting performance that enforces director Jenkins’s aim to humanize Wuornos’s story. Ricci’s character is the sole source of love in Wuornos’s life and she expertly crafts her character to reveal the effects she has on her prostitute friend. Though Wall herself is a lesbian, the relationship between these two characters comes off as much more complex; Wall is attempting to escape her family and Wuornos has, for once, found someone who hasn’t judged or thought ill of her.

As the writer and director, Jenkins scripted and filmed a mesmerizing portrayal of Wuornos’ life. The visual presentation of the film reflected the nature of the characters; the cinematic features (or lack thereof) strongly emphasized the down-and-out nature of the film. The story Jenkins tells through her characters and film style is not simply one of murder, but of emotion, desire and tragedy that leaves the audience feeling incredibly disturbed, overwhelmed and even speechless at the close of the film.

Monster tells a story often forgotten in the world of sensational and headline-centred media. The film focuses on revealing Wuornos’ tragedy, one that has been neglected almost entirely up to this point and of which most people are unaware. While society may portray Wuornos as a monster, Jenkins’ film reminds the audience how “monsters” such as these are victims of circumstance and created by society.

 

 

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