Director/Screenwriter: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, and Bruce Dern
review by Jade Sharma
Life can be easy. You can be born in a safe warm place, grow up sheltered by picket fences, act out your teenage rebellion by dying your hair, fall back in place just as you graduate college, and then find yourself a productive member of society on your way to buying a a nice job buy a house and having a family of your own. But for some like, Aileen Wuornos there is a different kind of faith awaiting you. One thing is clear after watching Monster, even if Aileen Wuornos hadn’t become one of the only female serial killers in U.S. history, from the moment she was born: she would have a hard life. After watching Monster, I wanted to know more about Aileen’s past so I did some research on the internet, the following is what I found out. Aileen Wuornos’s father was a child molester and a sociopath who killed himself in prison. Her mother abandoned her, and her and her two siblings were raised by there maternal grandparents. Her brother died of throat cancer at 21, her sister committed suicide. Aileen started selling her body at age thirteen, got pregnant at fourteen, and was forced to give the baby up for adoption. She moved to Florida, and continuing being a hooker as an adult.
The movie begins on a rainy night, suicidal, determined not to let her last John have a freebie, Aileen decides to spend the money she made on her last trick and then kill herself. As she’s drinking up her earnings she meets 24 year old Tyria Moore. After a belligerent initial exchange, the two spend the night getting plastered and getting to know one another. At the end of the night Ty invites her to spend the night with her, and so begins there romance.
The story unfolds in the whittrash landscapes of central Florida: seedy bars, lawn furniture and interstate highways. The only time we see places like this in the media, is when Hollywood is mocking it like Harmony Karine’s Gummo, or on re-run of cops. To us city dwellers, this is the America we wish we could forget of bush supporters, racists, N.R.A members, and Christian fundamentalists. Aileen and Ty’s relationship from the beginning is portrayed in the film as intimate, and tender, even sweet. They go roller skating together, they laugh, and cuddle. It is clear that Aileen is starved for intimacy, finally, the promise of happiness is possible and she will do anything to hang on to it.
On her way to meet Tyria for their second date Aileen is propositioned by a John. She decides she has enough time for a last trick. The John takes her into the woods, where he hits in the face. She awakes to find her hands tied, he begins kicking the shit out of her. She struggles so hard she frees herself, reaches in her bag, and shoots him multiple times as she screams in curses. This is the dramatic turning point in the film. While she is shooting this torturing rapist, she is a hero, but this well is the last time in the film, that you root for her to kill. Although she has killed him she can’t go to authorities she’ll get no sympathy there. She’s a”cheap whore” and she knows it will do no good to go to the”good old boys” for help. So she covers her tracks.
She returns to Ty’s house, and the two run away together. First in a cheap motel, and then moving into a real house. After the first murder, she makes a last ditch attempt to turn her life around which from the start seems doom to fail. Her clumsy attempts to join the straight world are met with rejection. At one law office, the lawyer berates her,”you think you can just wake up one day after the party, and decide you deserve to have what people work there whole lifes for?” Her life has hardly been,”a party” and she reacts to his smugness by cursing him and storming out. At the employment office she makes a pathetic plea to the clerk that she’s a hooker and needs a chance to turn her life around. She is met by a stone wall and the woman’s back. Again she erupts in rage.
With no other prospects, she returns to being a hooker, largely due to her desire to support her young girlfriend. Tyria implicitly encourages that decision. And appeared to be disappointed with Aileen’s decision to change her life around. But since the murder, she has transformed. She sets off on a path of madness and delusion killing johns, partly in fear of being raped again, partly as retribution for her past victimizations by men, and partly, as she explains to Tyria, because “that’s the way life is, its the way people are.” The film shows several of these episodes. She spares a couple johns, one of which is a retarded virgin, whom she intends to kill, but after hearing him speak, she decides instead to jerk off.
Although the film depicts a likeable Aileen Wuornos and gives you enough hints of her tragic upbringing, there is not much to sympathize with as she brutally shoots these men. And I think that is what is at the core of this film. It shows you the monster, the killer, the ugliest predator of them all, the one you felt was a victim in the beginning, turns out of the monster in the end. The men she begins killer, turn your sympathies around, one of the johns turns out to be married to a woman in a wheelchair, making you conclude that it is only out of neccessity that he seeks the company of prostitutes. Also it becomes clear, that Aileen isn’t so delusional to think every man is responsible for her pain. Her only friend in the film, Bruce Dern, tells her he understands her circumstances and sympathizes with her. The last man it shows her kill doesn’t pick her up to have sex with her. Instead he consoles, even offers to let her stay at his house. And as she’s about to shout him, he begs and pleads for his life. This is the complete transformation from the first murder scene. In the first scene where she murders the rapist, she is the victim, and he is the monster. In the last killing scene, she is the monster, and the man is the victim.
This film, maybe due to its”True Crime” genre feels like a T.V movie. It feels low budget, and is juicy with murder, insanity, and twisted love with a cheesy 80’s soundtrack. But the acting sets it apart from similar movies of this genera. Charize thereon is such a powerhouse of energy and emotion, that at times, it makes her on-screen girl friend Chrina Riccie look deadpan and flat in comparison. There seems to be a lack of chemistry, though I’m not sure how much chemistry there’s suppose to be, as the film portrays there relationship more of a fucked up dependency and longing then a soul mate love affair.
In the end, Ty is the one to throw her to the wolves. She is arrested, at a bar and taken to jail. It is there that Ty caller her, and attempts to extract a confession from her, over the phone which is being tapped. Aileen is hip to the wire tap, and at first uses code words and is vague. But Ty convinces her that if she doesn’t confess that she will be locked up too. So she says that it was all her, and that Ty had nothing to do with it.
The film shows, the judge giving her death penalty, and which Aileen responds to by cursing out the judge for sending a rape victim to death. The film fades to white as she walks down the prisoner hallway.
In the first voice over of this film, she talks about how she always believed there was something special about her, that she was beautiful. She says, that she read that Marilyn Monroe had been discovered in a drugstore. And she spends her childhood and adolescence waiting in drugs stores, on highways, in bars, to see that kind of beauty in her. This is a common enough fantasy, what makes it so poignant in this film, is Aileen’s life turns out to be in such stark contrast to this starlit life and the grim reality that she would live.
The scene when the undercover cops finally bust her struck me. The way it happened was, two undercover cops persuade her to come to there car where they will give her some change to call her girlfriend. At this point Aileen is wasted, and these two burly men are convincing her to go to with them. As your watching, you began to fear they will rape her. But as she follows them the cops surround her, and she goes to jail. And you can’t help thinking, well, either a man was going to fuck her in the ass, or the law will. It isn’t that she doesn’t deserve to be prison, but it seems like everyone who ever entered Aileen’s life fucked her in one way or another.
What it doesn’t tell you in the movie, which I read in an article on the Crime TV website, is that Aileen Wuornos, signed her own death certificate. Instead of appealing the case, as most people do when sentenced to death row, she refused to follow the case with other appeals. It was then that Jeb Bush stepped in, and ordered a stay of execution, and had her undergo three psychiatric tests, to determine if she understood that she would go to death if she didn’t appeal the decision. It was found, she understood. And Bush conceded her decision. She then spent twelve years on death row, she became a media figure, granting interviews, and describing her tragic past. Feminists rallied for her as a victim, and a born again Christian woman ended up adopting her while she was on death row as a show of support. She died of lethal injection in 2002.
In the end it was Aileen that really made the decision to die, not the courts. She said, “Let God be my judge.” She didn’t fear death. Aileen Wuornos lend a lonely life, clinging to the only intimacy she ever saw, and when that was taken from her too, she took her sentence, and cursed out the judge that gave it to her.