DVD review entries
October 19, 2004
- Monster (Two Discs) [DVD] 
As a portrait of America's first female serial killer™ Aileen Wuornos, Monster is an ambitious but hugely flawed film. Writer-Director Patty Jenkins' desire to romanticise rather than demonise her protagonist is an admirable one, but in so doing she skates over a key element of Wuornos's character: her mental illness. Watch Nick Broomfield's documentaries on Wuornos and you'll find a far more complex and troubling character than Jenkins seems able to portray, and one which haunts the memory for much longer.
Monster seems torn between being both a love story and a psychological character study and, as such, Jenkins never quite captures the evilness of many of the crimes committed. Yes, Wuornos was undoubtedly a victim, but to hold this as rational justification for what were often irrational acts is a dangerously reductive strategy. It doesn't help that Christina Ricci's performance as Selby only occasionally convinces and the film's soft-rock score is often grossly inappropriate (particularly in the closing scenes), both of which only lend a glossy sheen to the proceedings which threatens to drown out many of the ambiguities evident in the material. Consequently, the film is always watchable but carries a nagging sensation that this is a very slight representation of a multifaceted individual.
That all said, the film's major plus-point is the central performance of an unrecognisable Charlize Theron. Like Halle Berry in Monster's Ball before her, Theron continues the tradition of the Oscars rewarding great turns in average movies with a performance that is truly astonishing. Inhabiting the character of Wuornos in both body and soul, every physical and verbal mannerism is so accurate, so meticulously executed and so inherently rooted in the character's internal psychology that for 100 minutes you genuinely forget that you are watching an actress at work. Easily on a par with Robert De Niro's transformation in Raging Bull, her performance is so impressive that it elevates what is otherwise a rather sanitised biopic ever-so-slightly above the norm.
- Dirty Dancing [DVD]