A decade ago, I was a teenager in high school. I had my first job at my local movie theater and used my newfound disposable income to get a Netflix subscription.
Over the summer of 2004, 17/18 year old Matt wrote 21 movie reviews and posted them on IMDb. Recently, I dug up these reviews and decided to revisit each movie and evaluate how my tastes have changed over the last decade.
So for each of these posts, I will write a present-day review and then copy/paste the original review after. Then, I’ll compare the two and give a summary at the end. You can find all the reviews here, follow me on Twitter here and check out The Obsessive Viewer Podcast here. Now, lets talk about Monster.
My 2014 Review
Monster tells the story of prostitute turned serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The movie begins with shots of Aileen as a kid with Charlize Theron narrating that her character was a dreamer. She wanted to be a star as a kid and was always told love was all she needed. Cut to adult Aileen, her face rough with age, holding a gun under an overpass contemplating suicide.
She doesn’t kill herself. Instead, she meets Selby, a young closeted girl who’s been cast out from her family and forced to live with religious fanatics. Soon the pair of outcasts begin a relationship and Aileen turns back to prostitution to support them. Eventually, this propels her into becoming a serial killer.
The movie does its best to portray a more human and compassionate side to Aileen. The title is a bit of a misnomer as she does degrading things in her struggle to survive and support herself and Selby. The two women are outcasts who want to fit in and find solace with each other. It’s actually somewhat of a charming love story without all the prostitution and murder.
But prostitution and murder is, sadly, what the story is ultimately about. The scene depicting Aileen’s first kill is highly disturbing. It being an act of self-defense gives the rest of her actions a slight pang of tragedy. Her subsequent murders are soaked in a coat of creepiness as she twists things her victims say into a justification for her actions.
The end of the movie does not give us quite as clear an image of who Aileen Wuornos was, despite writer/director Patty Jenkins‘ best attempt. Aileen’s troubled history is told to us through dialogue but Aileen is a fairly unreliable narrator so it’s hard to tell what’s true to and what isn’t. The movie would have benefited from a deeper look into her childhood.
Charlize Theron’s performance stands out. Not only did she change her physique for the role, she displayed some very impressive range and a firm grasp on the character. Christina Ricci‘s performance as Selby leaves a bit to be desired, however. It’s hard to fault Ricci for this; she does a perfectly amiable job. But the movie was written with Aileen as the sole focus. This relegated Selby to becoming more of a naive runaway dependent on Aileen for support. The script should have fleshed out the character of Selby more and given the audience someone more worthy of rooting for.
Monster is an interesting look at the life and motivations of a serial killer. While it doesn’t hit all its notes, it’s still engaging and successful in telling the tragic story of its subject. The script could have used a bit more work, but ultimately Patty Jenkins told the story she wanted to tell. Whether that story is the one worth telling is up to the audience to decide.
Obsessive Grade: Wait for Netflix Disc
Worth seeing, but you’ll survive waiting a couple days for the mail.
My 2004 Review
Where is Charlize Theron?
8 June 2004
*-Watch it on TV **-Worth a Rental ***-Buy Used DVD ****-Worthy of a Blind Buy
I want to make one thing perfectly clear about the film Monster. Charlize Theron is not in it! Seeing her become Aileen Wuornos was breathtaking. I am not sure that I agree with Roger Ebert’s assessment that it is the greatest performance in the history of cinema (or something to that effect) simply because I have not seen every performance in the history of cinema. I can say that Theron’s performance is one of the most transforming and magnificent performances I have ever seen. Not that it should completely overshadow Christina Ricci’s performance, it shouldn’t. Ricci gave an extremely convincing performance of the sad, lonely lesbian who falls for Aileen.
There is a scene where Aileen is telling Selby her plans of getting a job and providing for her. You really feel hopeful for her as she struggles to get a job and leave her prostitution days behind her. Of course you know what is eventually going to happy [sic] and (atleast I) couldn’t help feeling sorry for her. I was very satisfied with this film. Patty Jenkins did a tremendous job of bringing this amazing true story to the screen. The way she tells the story makes you feel almost sorry for Aileen in her situation as she tries to provide for Selby. But at the same time you despise her for being the title character. I give this film ****. I will definitely be buying this soon and I feel that it is absolutely worthy of a blind buy.
Summing Up: Then and Now
It seems back in 2004 I got a little too wrapped up in Theron’s performance to look at the movie objectively. Reading these reviews now, I’m noticing that I was really into giving sweeping accolades after pinning a favorable opinion on one specific aspect of the movie.
In other words, I was a really shitty reviewer.
I do believe I was genuinely pleased with Ricci’s performance in 2004. After watching the movie in 2014, I don’t think she did a bad job with the character. I just don’t think she was given much to work with in the script.
Theron earned her Oscar, but the movie didn’t earn the 4 stars I gave it in 2004. Now thanks to 17-year-old Matt it’s in my collection and I don’t think I’ll watch it again.