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.