Critics have universally praised Charlise Theron's performance in Monster
and the praise, for once, is astonishingly deserved. The gorgeous star of The Italian Job
and The Cider House Rules
vanishes into the character of Aileen Wuornos, a real-life serial killer and prostitute who murdered at least seven men in Florida. Monster
traces her relationship with a young woman named Selby (Christina Ricci), which intertwines with Wuornos's murder spree. This remarkable movie finds compassion for Wuornos but unflinchingly faces her brutal crimes; Theron expresses this woman's horrific life history without softening her terrifying, dead-eyed stare. This is a gripping, devastating performance, a physical and psychological transformation comparable to Robert DeNiro's in Raging Bull
. The movie's moral and emotional complexity wouldn't succeed without this searing performance--but succeed it does, and it will stick with you for some time afterwards. Those interested in the back story may also want to seek out Nick Broomfield's documentaries
on Wuornos. --Bret Fetzer
Charlize Theron won an Oscar at the 2003 Academy Awards for her portrayal of real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in this gritty, hard-hitting drama by first-time writer/director Patty Jenkins. After a horrifically abusive childhood in Michigan, Aileen, known as 'Lee' (Charlize Theron) is working as a prostitute on the highways of Florida, with truck-drivers as her main clientele. Just as she is nearing suicidal despair she meets Selby (Christina Ricci) a young woman sent to live with an aunt to 'cure' her of her homosexuality. The two quickly fall into an intense and dysfunctional relationship, and Lee continues to work the streets to support Selby, who has become her lifeline. When one of her customers turns violent, Lee ends up shooting him in self-defence, and her string of killings begins. Wuornos was finally convicted of killing six men, though she claimed to have been acting in self-defence, and was executed in Florida in 2003.