Monster (2003)

(On DVD, September 2016) Charlize Theron got considerable acclaim for her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, and more than ten years later it’s still easy to see why. Straddling the line between sympathy and revulsion for its subject, this is a film that takes us to the bottom of American society, alongside people so rejected by the system that they become prey for predators barely above them. After being abused, rejected, thrown out and exploited, one woman snaps and kills a man who clearly intended to brutalize her. Having tasted revenge, her next few kills are far more deliberate. A rare true-life example of a female serial killer, Wuornos’ case (as portrayed in this film) becomes a cautionary tale about people with nothing to lose, and how badly the system can fail them. It’s certainly not meant to excuse what she did, as even Wuornos’ lover can’t possibly condone her actions and runs away. This is in no way a pleasant, uplifting or comforting film. But Monster’s anchor is truly Theron’s performance, about as unglamorous as she can be with extra pounds, prosthetic teeth, terrible complexion and bad posture: Theron walked away with a few awards for this one (including an Oscar), and it’s hard to disagree. The film itself is fine, but with Theron in the lead role it becomes remarkable.

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