starring Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci
4 stars

review by Stephen Notley

Aileen Wuornos was a white-trash hooker who killed her way across Florida in the 80s, shooting seven men across the state until she was finally caught, tried and executed. 

Are we going to like her, or approve of her? Probably not. But if we see Monster, we're sure as hell gonna get to know her.

Aileen is played by Charlize Theron in a performance that everybody's going ape over, and it's easy to see why. Looking at Charlize Theron pre-Monster you'd see the beautiful but somehow listless blond chick from movies like Mighty Joe Young, The Astronaut's Wife or The Devil's Advocate, kind of like a Cameron Diaz knock-off without the charm.

But in an act of astonishing Hollywood de-glamorization, that actress is nowhere to be found in Monster. Instead there's just Aileen, with her haggard, blemished skin, her pores, all the stuff we don't see in people in movies because of makeup. She's drawn, hard with lines, the corners of her mouth wedged down in a face that hasn't seen a smile in years, 29 going on 55.

She's not attractive, and yet, somehow, she attracts. Maybe it's because she's got a certain toughness, a take-no-shit attitude that she looks like she's earned through years of shitty living and premature aging. Whatever it is, it's enough to attract shy lesbian Christina Ricci in a bar, and although Aileen is clear she's not queer, she accepts Ricci's advances in a world where there's nobody else who gives a shit.

And so begins a doomed little love story which gets a bit more complicated when Aileen blows away a john who's raping her. Now Aileen's a murderer with a new car. Nobody seems to catch on, so she and Ricci continue their relationship and plan to go away together, and every so often Aileen shows up with a newer car and more money. 

Basically, Aileen becomes a monster. We're with her when she kills the first guy; movie-audience moral consensus is that it's completely okay for a woman to kill a man who's raping her. Then she kills the second guy, this time because he's talking gross and saying sick things. Well, not so good, but still, he kind of deserved it for being such a bad person. And down the ladder of justification we go with Aileen until it's just a matter of expediency, it's just a thing to do. She takes on a fierce, almost messianic glow in those scenes where she justifies herself to Ricci. She's mindful of what she's doing, she's doing it for both of them, and she's going to keep doing it. As Aileen says, "People kill each other every day, and people like us go down every day." 

And yet still, somehow, we're with her all the way down. Monster doesn't judge, or forgive. It doesn't ask *for* forgiveness; it asks *about* forgiveness. By the end, it's clear that Aileen Wuornos was a terrible person who made terrible decisions, and yet even she tried to love somebody and wanted to make something out of her life. We may not be able to forgive, but we have no choice but to care.