I thought Theron did a good job. But I plan to watch these documentaries if I'm able to get a hold of them and seeing for myself.
'Monster': Looking for the story behind the story of a serial killer
By Robert J. Hawkins
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 8:53 p.m. May 30, 2004
I imagine that if Aileen Wuornos had not insisted that the state of Florida execute her expeditiously, she might have been really flattered that a looker like Charlize Theron chose to play her in the bio-pic "Monster" (Columbia TriStar). And Wuornos might have been the toast of death row the night Theron won the Oscar for her portrayal of the country's first media-annointed female serial killer.
After all, Wuornos once had Hollywood dreams of her own.
But Wuornos was executed Oct. 9, 2002, a month before Florida's law-and-order Gov. Jeb Bush won re-election. Not that he needed her execution to win. And not that Wuornos wasn't anxious to be executed.
After all, in a one-year span, the woman Dan Rather referred to on network news as the Damsel of Death killed seven men along I-75, near Daytona Beach. She admitted it, too. They picked her up for sex, she lured them to remote places, then shot them.
It is hard not to get passionate about the Wuornos story. It is both clear-cut and complex. Nobody ever seems to get it quite right. Even Wuornos herself.
"Monster" writer/director Patty Jenkins felt there was a neglected "greater truth" when she set out to make this movie. She felt there was more to Wuornos than the media images: the bugged-out eyes, the handcuffs up around the throat, the explosive rage in the courtroom, the blond hair, the highway hooker, the lesbian.
"When people get abused as children and bad things happen to them," says Jenkins on the movie's background featurette, "they get discarded. That's it. There's no prize. Very few people become stronger. You become damaged ... and damaged people do horrible things."
Oddly though, Jenkins's movie spends little time digging around those formative Michigan roots. "Monster" launches with Wuornos sitting out the rain under a Florida highway overpass, gun in hand, contemplating suicide. Instead, she goes to a gay bar to spend her last $5, meets an Ohio lesbian named Selby (Christina Ricci) and falls in love.
For the rest of the movie, Wuornos tries to make enough money to keep the two on them in beer and motel rooms. To say that some people would kill for love is a bit glib. At her trial, Wuornos said each and every john that she shot was in self-defense. Some are portrayed that way in the movie. (When the real Wuornos decided execution was her ticket out of here, she began insisting that every one was a cold-blooded murder.)
In the end, it was Selby who wore a wire and got Wuornos to confess on tape for the police. She also testified for the prosecution. Selby's cooperation went further: She partnered with three of the investigating cops to sell the story to Hollywood. Yeah, love hurts.
So, "Monster" is a love story. With a seven-man body count.
As for Theron's portrayal, well, I've never been much of a fan. I don't deny that she threw everything into this role – that's my point exactly. Theron has solid-gold looks but a tin-ear delivery. In this case, she got dirtied up, and some saw that as heroic. I don't. I don't even think she captured Wuornos' mannerisms especially well.
In fact – and I'm not being sarcastic – if you want to see an amazing Wuornos performance, get a copy of Nick Broomfield's and Joan Churchill's documentary "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer" (Columbia TriStar), also available this week.
This is a follow-up to Broomfield's original 1992 look at the case, "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer." It was Broomfield who exposed the number of people tied to the case who were scrambling to make a buck off it before locking her away.
In the 2003 follow-up, Broomfield was subpoenaed to testify at the final death sentence appeal and ended up filming to the very end, including being given the last public interview by the murderer.
Broomfield and Churchill did what Jenkins elected to skim through in her movie: They went to her hometown, Troy, Mich., and confronted the stuff that shaped Wuornos into a monster. It is more horrifying than the bodies of seven johns lying in the Florida backcountry.
Wuornos was abandoned early by her mother, sexually abused by her brother, savagely beaten by a grandfather. She was a favorite of the neighborhood pedophile, the sexual plaything of local boys and pregnant at age 13. Thrown out of her house, she lived in the woods and neighbors' cars for two years, married a septuagenarian and eventually hit the road, thumb out. And that's just the short list.
Before her execution, Wuornos insisted that police knew she was the killer right after the first murder – maybe even before – but let her continue in order to build the book and movie marketability of the story. So, it's the cops' fault. She also blames society and she deliberately sabotaged her defense.
"Nick," she tells Broomfield with a fierce look, "this is the last time I'm going to say this: You have to kill Aileen Wuornos, because she'll kill (pause) again."
Broomfield's conclusion, unheeded by anyone who could or would do anything about it: "We're executing a person who is mad."
And maybe that is the way it was meant to be. She wanted to die and it was an election year. Win-win.
But maybe, just maybe, underneath that rough charm and crusty, articulate personality, there really did exist a genuinely insane woman who did not have control of her actions.
So, why the single-minded determination to kill her? As Broomfield pointed out, even co-ed serial killer Ted Bundy was offered life in prison.