Can a single performance carry an entire film? Simply put, yes. “Monster” proves it. Charlize Theron unquestionably took home the best actress award for her performance as serial killer Aileen Wournos, but she’s not the only strong performer here.
Beaten as a child and feeling lost without anyone in her life, Aileen is on the verge of suicide. After meeting a young woman named Selby (Christina Ricci) in a bar, things begin to change. Money problems force her continue her “career” as a prostitute until she is horribly beaten by a client. This single moment changes everything as she begins a string of murders to extract revenge on those she believed ruined her life.
This is a wildly different serial killer movie. You never actually see the police search nor are you involved in the case at any point in the film. The focus remains on Aileen for the entire running time. Also, only three of the seven murders are actually shown on screen. It’s a brilliant change of pace and one that serves the movie well.
Theron displays a wide range of emotions throughout the film. Every time she snaps, it is just incredible to watch. You can just read her eyes and tell what’s about to happen. When you can be absolutely terrified of an on-screen actor, you know that you’re watching a nearly perfect performance.
But, Christina Ricci is just behind her in overall talent. Horribly under appreciated, Ricci fully deserved an award for supporting actress as Selby. Her emotional journey is just as erratic and looks horrified when faced with the full rage of her partner.
The movie itself is well written and directed by first time director Patty Jenkins. This is not one for those easily offended as expletives are spoken at a blistering pace from the moment the credits stop rolling. The murders themselves are particularly toned down; one of them isn’t even shown on-screen. It’s a smart move that leaves more time for the emotional development of the characters. The ending is also great which let’s both actresses top off their performances.
“Monster” is not one of those movies you will recommend to everyone. Not because it’s a bad movie. Far from it. Simply put, it’s disturbing to watch at times. Knowing there are people like this in the world is paralyzing enough, but to see it is even worse. If you believe you can handle it, this is a must-see. (***** out of *****)
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, the movie looks decent on DVD. Compression can be an issue at times (especially in darker scenes oddly), but the sequences shot in brighter conditions are flawless. The layer of grain is likely intentional to give the film a gritty look, but it is at times overbearing. Otherwise, this is a decent, if unspectacular transfer. (****)
Just a little over the top in the sound department, “Monster” features both a DTS and 5.1 track. Both are roughly on equal ground featuring excellent use of all five speakers when the soundtrack kicks in. There is some excellent atmosphere during certain scenes, but the film is otherwise centered. There is an odd scene involving a late-night visit of Aileen to Selby’s home where the dialogue seems a little strained, but you can still make out everything. (****)
Other than the film, the only extras are trailers, a cheap sound mixing demonstration, and two featurettes. Both of the latter run for around 15-minutes. The first is just a standard featurette that discusses the location shoot and some of the makeup process (which is incredible by the way). The second focuses on the soundtrack and how the film was mixed into the proper format. The mixing demo simply lets listeners choose to listen to individual sound elements separately or together. It doesn’t really teach anything. (***)
This movie rightfully deserved every drop of praise it received. Those looking for some kind of slasher movie will likely be thrown off, but will be enthralled by the character (with the performance) and stick with it. This is a fantastic emotional ride, the likes of which we will never see again. Just make sure the kids are asleep or in another country before popping this disc in.Powered by Sidelines