Monday, June 4, 2012

CANON OF FILM: "MONSTER"

MONSTER (2003)

Director/Screenwriter: Patty Jenkins





As much as I love both “The Millenium Trilogy,” movies and books, it’s clear to me that Lisbeth Salandar is a fictional character. A fantasy character who just happened to have the ability to be an expert at computer hacking and have a photographic memory so that she can get at all the men who physically and mentally abused her over the years. In another world, she might have turned out like Aileen Wournos, a prostitute who started murdering her johns after one of them raped her, eventually getting the electric chair. Patty Jenkins’s film “Monster,” came out to rave reviews, and Charlize Theron’s performance was a revelation. Nothing she had done before prepared anybody for her performance in this film. It wasn’t just the Tony G make-up or the thirty pound weight gain, she seemed to channel a performance of a woman who was unable to live in the world surrounding her. It’s probably more surprising that Theron’s Oscar-winning performance was the film’s only nomination. Christian Ricci’s supporting work was overlooked in a crowded year, and the film didn’t get noticed for the screenplay, directing, picture, not even make-up. Those who watched the film however, knew it stood out. As a character study, as a tragic love story, a crime story, and a story of two characters who get into a scenario that’s in over both heads. Lee (Theron) had been hooking since she was 13, and was thinking of killing herself until she met Selby (Ricci), a very young lesbian who her family in two states was trying to straighten out. The two meet and talk, and begin to fall in love. One of the most romantic scenes in any movie is the two of them falling in love at a roller rink as Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on the radio. Is Lee a lesbian, or just falling in love with the person? Does Selby understand or realize that she's killing people to get the money to support her? These are two characters inexperienced with love and the feeling of having being wanted by someone else. They live off emotions, Lee’s a young tomboy who’s not that educated. Combs her hair with the accurate precision like John Travolta used to in “Saturday Night Fever,” or smoking her cigarettes like a twelve-year-old boy trying to be cool. Selby is pretty, young, shy, so unsure of her own identity she practically mimics Lee when she’s not around. It’s tragic that she finds the love she’s always looking for but too late for her to be anything but a serial killer, whose time is closing in. Jenkins’s directing career has suffered a standstill after this film, only getting work occasionally directing TV shows, and she hasn’t written anything afterwards. This was a passion project for her though. I’m not sure what if anything she plans or wants to do afterwards, but it’d be hard to top “Monster,” even if she tried.
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