Monster (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop and Tuna agreed on Charlize Theron's uncanny performance, as good as we've ever seen from any woman. Tuna also thought the movie rose above the genre to classic status. Scoop didn't actually like watching the film at all, but he admired it because of the preparation that went into it, the thorough accuracy of the script, and Charlize's interpretation.

Scoop's notes, written before the film was released theatrically, in white:

Maybe you've never heard of this movie. Maybe you never will. But when Charlize Theron picks up her Oscar in the Spring, you can tell everyone you read about it first right here.

First of all, former glamour girls or lightweight actresses who take chances and accept major dramatic parts in non-glamorous roles ALWAYS win the Oscar. Halle Berry, Hillary Swank, Nicole Kidman, and so forth. So Charlize would win even if she weren't really that good.

But second of all, she really WAS that good.

It's a biopic. Charlize plays a highway prostitute named Aileen Wuornos who became a serial killer, and was finally executed in 2002 after 12 years on Death Row. I don't know much about the real Wuornos, but if we accept the film's version, she worked on the fringes of society for years as a low-rent, completely heterosexual hooker, and she had no major episodes of violence. After she met a lesbian and fell in love, she started to undergo some intense psychological changes. This period of her life happened to include an episode in which one of her johns tortured and nearly killed her. In fact, he may have intended to kill her, but she managed to turn the tables on him and killed him instead.

After that incident, she became scared and tried to leave prostitution, but she came to realize that there was no legal way for her to earn a living, and she became more and more embittered by her efforts to get out of the life. That first violent incident, which was essentially self-defense, seemed to rekindle some bitter childhood memories, and to trigger some long-suppressed violent impulses which, once freed, burst from her uncontrollably. She had soon killed several other men, some of them with no justification at all. There is a particularly heart-rending scene when she kills a good samaritan who offers to help her climb out of prostitution.


Charlize Theron got topless, but of course she didn't look that good.

Christina Ricci kept her clothes on, but was braless quite a bit.

Theron slipped into the role by making the greatest physical transformation since DeNiro played Jake LaMotta. (Pictures to right)

She gained 30 pounds. Then the special effects wizards transformed her further with make-up and contacts. Finally, and perhaps most important, she assumed a completely new voice and body language. Roger Ebert called it one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema.

Mr Ebert also chose this as his #1 picture of the year. I was impressed by it, but not so much that I'd consider it in the "film of the year" class. I do agree with him on Charlize's performance.

The yellow print represents Tuna's comments, which were written six months after the above, and some months after Charlize collected her Oscar:

Roger Ebert called Charlize Theron's Oscar winning performance "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema." After watching it, I have to say that he greatly understated the case. This is a biopic about a highway hooker in Florida who ended up killing 7 johns and was eventually executed. The film makers took the trouble to walk the areas she walked, to meet her friends, and to read all of her correspondence from prison, which was mainly remembrances of her life. In short, they really did their homework. They didn't try to make her a sympathetic character, but they did show what events and conditions in her life severely limited her choices to the point that she committed the murders, all in an effort to live a real life with her first female lover.

This attention to detail, and serious research into what made the woman what she was would have resulted in a better than average serial killer film, and no more. That brings me back to Charlize Theron's performance. Had I not known it was Charlize I was watching, I never would have guessed it was her. It wasn't just the 30 pounds she put on, the fake facial skin, contacts or false teeth, it was the fact that she became a completely different person, with different body rhythms, different speech patterns, and a different voice. From the few clips of the real Aileen Wuornos included in the special features, Wuomos is the character Theron became. The film was shot in the actual physical locations from Wuornos life. If the film has a moral stance, it is that, when people pushed down for long enough, they have no other choice than to commit horrid acts. However, the film doesn't excuse the acts.

I watch a lot of serial killer films because they normally have at least some nudity, and this is head and shoulders above the others, primarily because of Charlize Theron. I honestly had no idea she had this kind of talent. With the Best Actress statuette under her arm, she should pull some more big roles now, and I am looking forward to seeing them.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, Glieberman B-.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.4/10, Yahoo voters score it an A-.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Featurette; filmmaking demo featurette

  • Interview with director

  • widescreen anamorphic format

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a C+. If you like this kind of film, you will love this one. I don't, and didn't, but Charlize's performance is incredible." Tuna says, "This is a clear B, rising above the genre due to good research/writing and an amazing performance. If you haven't seen it, put it on your rental list."

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