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Review: Monster

True crime, secret lesbians, Floridian trailer trash, and ‘80s pop music—these lurid ingredients come together in Monster.

Photo: Newmarket Films

True crime, secret lesbians, Floridian trailer trash, and ‘80s pop music—these lurid ingredients come together in Monster, an indie biopic about the crimes of highway prostitute Aileen Wuornos, who killed seven johns and claimed that many of them had it coming. Former model Charlize Theron transforms herself into a Wuornos caricature, taking the title literally. Looking like a sun-baked wooly mammoth, Theron comes equipped with a fright wig, flaked-out skin, bad teeth, no lipstick and a laconic drawl. As if that weren’t enough, she also tosses in a blood splattered nude scene and several well-timed primal screams (Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” laughably covers a bloody post-murder clean-up followed by a chaste sex scene). Amazing how gorgeous actresses are hailed as revelatory when they tack on the fake integrity of false skin and rotten teeth (or win an Academy Award by a nose, a la Nicole Kidman in The Hours) and pile on the broad histrionics. Monster is pretty tepid stuff, conventionally told in a series of Lifetime confrontations between Wuornos and her naïve little girlfriend Selby Wall (Christina Ricci, a pallid kewpie doll next to Theron’s shaggy Amazonian). The rape sequences feel like B-movie exploitation aiming for tragic high art; the whole time I was craving Abel Ferrara and Ms. 45 star Zoë Lund to separate the naughty girls from the bad, bad women. Theron and Ricci enjoy their game of sleazy dress-up, condescending to Hicksville without ever tapping into the desperation, humanity, or experiential knowledge of the oppressed. Instead, they resort to brute theatrics and futile Oscar baiting.

Cast: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci, Bruce Dern, Lee Tergesen, Scott Wilson, Annie Corley, Marco St. John, Bubba Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince Director: Patty Jenkins Screenwriter: Patty Jenkins Distributor: Newmarket Films Running Time: 111 min Rating: R Year: 2003 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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