An honest take on a serial killer story
Written and directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
Aileen Wuornos was famously labelled “America’s first female serial killer” when she was convicted of murdering several men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. Aileen lived a torturous life of abuse and abandonment from a very early age, and was often exploited by family and friends. Monster is not an antihero redemption flick by any means, but it gives a lot of incite into a person’s life who had so much hate thrown at her, that she finally threw it right back.
Jenkins knew when writing and directing that there was no making Wuornos a sympathetic character — she had killed people and ruined lives. Someone who had to rely on themselves for so long like Aileen did meant a certain level of detachment and self-preservation that Jenkins was aware of while creating this story. The voice over “was an incredible tool, and it really served the juxtaposition of how she would compartmentalize things in her mind.” (+)
Charlize Theron transformed into Aileen Wuornos. It wasn’t just the prosthetic teeth or late 80s fashion — Theron perfected the large gestures, small facial tics, and of course the hair flip. Most actors would perform, but she embodied the antisocial murder (which earned her an Oscar for Best Actress). Theron’s ability to portray such an intense fear of abandonment and competing inability to maintain interpersonal relationships is heartbreaking when Aileen talks about her hope and love for her girlfriend Selby (Christina Ricci). Aileen desperately wanted companionship but when Selby eventually abandons her for immunity to all crimes, she understands that there was no hope for her.
The title of the film is not a direct reference to Wuornos, but a Ferris wheel that she wanted to ride as a kid. When she finally did, her nerves got to her and she threw up. This metaphor of wanting something so bad from the unfamiliar and not knowing the costs reflects the decisions Wuornos took to stay alive and while maintaining a relationship with Selby. I have never seen such an outstanding personification from an actor than with Charlize Theron in this part — she’s so subtle in her actions and choices to convey the inner conflicting emotions of a woman like Aileen.
The real Aileen Wuornos was executed via lethal injection one year prior to the film’s release. In the documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer by Nick Broomfield, some of Aileen’s last words to the camera were “A raped woman got executed, and was used for books and movies and shit!” She was in contact with Jenkins during the last part of her life and knew about the film. Jenkins also said the day before the execution Wuornos had sent other letters between her and her friends to Jenkins and Theron. (+)
Originally published at www.muffsociety.com.