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  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jan
from Film Forum, 01/08/04

When America's most popular and respected film critic Roger Ebert posted his top ten films of 2003 last week, the #1 title came as a surprise. The film opened just this week, and very few people have seen it yet.

The movie is called Monster, and it portrays the sordid past and sufferings of Aileen Wuornos, who responded by inflicting far greater sufferings on others and ended up being executed for a killing. While the story is indeed startling and sad, the thing that is putting Monster in headlines is the transformation of its star, the blonde bombshell Charlize Theron, into a beleaguered, bitter woman so unrecognizable that one critic even described her as resembling Jon Voight. The film co-stars Christina Ricci as the young woman who falls in love with Wuornos before the bitter end.

"Both women are disconnected from reality," explains Ebert, "and their search for happiness leads to a serial killing spree in which the death of a well-meaning man … is unbearably painful. We are told to hate the sin but love the sinner, and Monster is a luminous work of empathy, showing us a woman whose destiny was already sealed as a battered child."

This interpretation is not shared by everyone. Movieguide's critic will not be including this in his top ten list. He calls it "revisionist history. [The movie] declines to inform viewers that Aileen was often in trouble with the law for drunk driving, assault, disorderly conduct, auto theft, armed robbery, and other crimes before she even met her lesbian lover. Thus, although [Theron] … gives a powerhouse performance, Monster tries to garner sympathy for this admittedly troubled, but despicable, killer, and contains a tremendous barrage of obscenities and the kind of gross sexual immorality that is destroying many children."

"Expect a harsh film with no light whatsoever," says Trae Cadenhead (The Phantom Tollbooth). "Charlize Theron just about singlehandedly makes Monster worth one viewing for those who can stomach it. It's a shame that the best acting performance in recent history is found in the most unsettlingly disturbing film in recent history."