Film Department

What we saw
Patty Jenkins’ Monster, a sort of biopic about Aileen Wuornos, a murdering hooker from Florida executed in 2001.
What we’d say if we were being really, really flip
“It’s the most romantic movie about serial killers EVER.”
One reason why that’s wrong
Despite claims to the contrary, Wuornos wasn’t really a “serial killer” in the sense of Berkowitz, Dahmer, etc. She maintained relationships with other humans she didn’t kill; she killed to cover up theft (dead men tell no tales) than as an end unto itself; her crimes lacked the broken-sexuality component common to the genre, etc. Of course, that means she just killed a bunch of people without being completely nutso, which is hardly better.
Another reason why that’s wrong
Since the definition of “serial killers” in use here is at best flawed, shouldn’t we also consider Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde?
The answer to that
Notwithstanding that, then, yet another reason that doesn’t work
Wuornos’ lover was the star witness against her in her trial, though the circumstances of that are complex to say the least.
Okay, smartass, what makes this movie so great?
Charlize Theron, beyond a shadow of a doubt, turns in a performance unequalled in recent memory. Think DeNiro in Raging Bull and Taxi Driver. Think Will Smith in Ali, even if you didn’t see it (trust us) (and even if you think we’re weird for listing two boxing flicks). Think Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade. It’s like that. Theron has done a load of work trading on her looks. She’s gorgeous, she’s tall, and she’s foreign. Unfortunately, she did movies like 2 Days in the Valley and Devil’s Advocate, and last year’s awful remake of The Italian Job that would lead you to believe she’s just another pretty face in Hollywood, a woman sure to make a splash on red carpets for a year or two, and just as sure to vanish without a trace soon enough. No, I don’t think so. Not now. The red-carpet Theron is nowhere to be seen; in her place is someone entirely different. She nails the accent, the body language — the swagger of the permanent loser is perfect. Even her height isn’t glamorous here; it’s played for freak value. Theron towers over Christina Ricci, who plays Wuornos’ love interest (and, amazingly, manages not to be completely overshadowed).
So who else is in this flick?
Bruce Dern, playing what may be the best almagamation of all crazy-Bruce-Dern-roles. Wild-haired and in a surplus jacket, he’s a crazed Vietnam vet who understands Wuornos’ career choice, at least until she starts knocking off the johns.
So where’s it playing?
In Houston, at the Angelika. Elsewhere, do a search.

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