Saturday, April 9, 2011


(Embedded is a portion of the movie "Monster" and the scene referenced is particularly violent and disturbing scene, NSFW)

Charlize Theron's performance as Aileen Wuornos who is a prostitute who turns into a serial killer in "Monster" is without a doubt one of the most powerful performances I've ever seen. The movie itself is pretty good, with solid writing and direction (but falling victim to the occasional pop-psychologizing and cheesy music here and there), but Charlize Theron elevates the whole work into something truly special. Her performance takes a seemingly unsympathetic character, a serial killer (and a female prostitute one at that), and makes her sympathetic, human, three dimensional, and even relatable at times. She shocks us with her total and complete transformation as a beautiful and elegant woman in real life into a woman grown up in the worst of circumstances and portrays her transformation into a serial killer with shocking realism.

Rewatching the movie for this post, I couldn't help but be reminded of the femme fatale themes of Kill Bill. But instead of being a celebration of the stereotype, playing around with it in a pastiche of different cinematic styles and excess, in "Monster" we see it portrayed with gritty realism and with the ugly realities violence between the sexes shown bare. In this scene, starting at 4:20, we see Charlize Theron's character being picked up as a prostitute where it is slowly revealed that the man has violent intentions with her. He beats her across the head, sodomizes her, then Charlize Theron quickly finds a gun and shoots him in retaliation. While given the circumstances Aileen's reaction was not totally unust, it serves as the beginning of her career as a serial killer, driven by both a need for money and a deep hatred of men and their rabid and sometimes violent sexual desire that she witnesses as a prostitute. Throughout the movie we watch her with alternating feelings of sympathy and disgust.


  1. Very, very interesting clip. I have not seen this movie but after watching this clip I am definitely intrigued. I believe this movie shows the overall degrading aspect of males towards females. Solely the fact that she is a prostitute shows that men are abusing her body for their sexual pleasure. The fact that she has kids and no husband also points to another instance of a man using her. And then finally the scene at the end where the customer tries to do God knows what to her. This points to a real fault in society and although the movie may seem made-up situations like this sadly do occur.

  2. I saw part of this movie on the plane a long time ago and found it really hard to stomach, probably because of the grim subject matter and the remarkable acting. Charlize Theron actually underwent a physical transformation for the role. An athletic, beautiful ex-model, she gained 30 pounds and damaged her hair and eyebrows in order to embody Aileen Wuornos as fully as she could. The sagging, sad nature of Aileen's body wouldn't have been possible with prosthetics: Theron had to go for it completely. Another instance of a movie where the actor undergoes even more extreme physical transformation is The Machinist, where Christian Bale starves himself for four months and loses 28kg to portray a severely emaciated man with chronic insomnia. His performance was also well-received. I wonder if there is a correlation between the actor's physical transformation and the full embodiment of the character.


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