It’s a show biz cliche, gorgeous actress wants to be taken seriously and takes a part where she uglies up so that only her talent will show. Cliche or not, it worked for Charlize Theron, who turned in a performance that is nothing less than dazzling as real-life serial killer Aileen Wournos in writer/director’s MONSTER. When I spoke with her on December 22, 2003, she had just been nominated for a Golden Globe, and rightly so.
MONSTER is brilliant, breathtaking, and completely unforgettable. Those are words that are sorely overused in the land of crit-speak, and yet there are few films that are so very deserving of them. Jenkins biographical story of Aileen Wournos, convicted serial killer, has all the earmarks of a tabloid tale from one of the more lurid purveyors of such. Instead of pandering to that crowd by exploiting the admittedly lurid subject matter, she has turned in a stark, gritty film etched in vitriol by Jenkins and a stunning (yes, another overused word) performance by Theron.
By the end, Wournos has, indeed, become the MONSTER of the title. The disposable human being who never benefited from the justice system and who attempted to make a little justice for herself, however misguided. We are left not, perhaps, wanting to know Wournos personally, nor disagreeing that she should be separated from society for everyones safety, and yet, Jenkins and Theron do the seemingly impossible. They make us see the hopeful eight-year-old who was trampled on by life, let down by those she trusted, and finally left to find her own way in a world in which she never stood a chance. And the tragedy of that is nothing short of devastating.