2004-02-06 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder


If Charlize Theron doesn’t win an Oscar for best actress, she should at the very least receive "The Most Likely to Be Un recognized" award.

In "Monster," the usually stunning star plays Aileen Wuornos, the notorious "first female serial killer," who was executed in Flo rida’s electric chair, Oct. 9, 2002. Wearing big cracked and twisted teeth, TheronA0 has put on pounds, along with bad-skin makeup to make her into the world’s most horrible hooker. As Wuornos, she’s also a tall, tough, temperamental Bar fly from Hell. Except for one bar buddy, ThomasA0 (Bruce Dern, looking like an aging "Wild Angel"), Wuornos hates men, which is somewhat understandable because she was repeatedly raped as a child by a male friend of her convicted pedophile father. Still, Theron’s per formance (though powerful and prob ably accurate) leaves little or no sympathy for her character. Wuornos strikes up a suffocating friendship with little lesbian Selby (Christina Ricci), even that turns abusive when her rage unravels.

Written and directed by Patty Jen kins, "Monster" links its episodic structure through voice-over narration read by Theron from Wuornos’s prison letters.A0The character’s highway hooker life is spiritually sustained through her delusion that if she tries hard enough, she can be anything she wants to be (that includes lawyer or U.S. President). However, after a brief attempt at securing a white-collar job, embittered Wuornos returns to the street and her real profession. Kill ings commence when one of her johns, Lee Tergesen (Vincent Corey), brutally tortures and sodomizes her. She shoots the assailant, buries his body, steals his car and realizes that murder means more bucks than simple street walking. Though she spares one stuttering client, Wuornos blasts another in the back of the head, after he offers her a place to stay and stupidly gives back her mislaid gun. A touch of ironic casting has the victim portrayed by Scott Wilson, who previously played "In Cold Blood" killer Ray Hickok.

"Monster" is not an easy movie to take and certainly not a "feel-good" ex perience. It makes you wonder why men would seek sexual favors from a prostitute as unattractive inside and out as Wuornos. Although pathetic, all but the sadist/rapist do not deserve to be murdered in cold blood. (Wuornos’ hatred ultimately extended to herself, which why she asked for and received her own execution.) Well filmed in stark realistic style, "Monster" most closely resembles "Boys Don’t Cry" in its depiction of mean-spirited, low-life criminality. The difference is that Hilary Swank’s sexually confused central character is sad and sympathetic. Theron’s Wuornos is neither. If you’re thick-skinned and searching for a great performance, go to "Monster." Otherwise, get your crime quota from the press.

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