Saturday, April 10, 2004


I've seen quite a few interesting films this past week or so, but two in particular stick out - neither very enjoyable, but both very compelling and very well done. The first of these was Monster, which I saw in previews. The film has been much praised in general, and if anyone takes the Oscars seriously, then Charlize Theron was a pretty good choice for Best Actress.

The film is interesting in that I think it's almost completely even-handed. No one's excused from blame, but no one, in fact, is a monster either. From the brutal rape which precipitates her first murder, to her final prostitution for the sake of her loved one, you get the feeling that Aileen Wuornos didn't have much of a chance - and that's a message the film states explicitly. But at the same time it makes sure that we know she at least went too far in the end. The directors knew that they couldn't play Wuornos up too far, couldn't suggest that her final punishment was in any way unjust.

Christina Ricci delivers a good turn, too, playing the fairly naïve Bible belt girl desperate to escape at any cost. You get the sense that Selby, her character, was really in love with Aileen, but that it was as much the flush of first experience as anything else and that more important to her was the opportunity Aileen represented for finding a new life where she could express herself. One of the most poignant moments of the film is when the two of them are at a fairground, and Selby is obviously coming on to another girl she's met, while Aileen, who's had to suffer for the money for this trip, looks on, heartbroken but strong. Certainly, she's never more sympathetic than at that moment.

The film belongs to Theron, certainly, but given the subject matter it could hardly have been any other way. In some ways it reminded me a lot of Boys Don't Cry. Both films are nearly unwatchable at times, but never does either film go too far, since the reality is more than enough to shock and pain the audience. No melodrama could do any better, and both Theron and Swank had the sense to stand back when necessary and let the story do the talking. And this is what makes both actresses deserving of any plaudits they get.

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