'Monster' with Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci (possible spoilers)

Saw it earlier today.

I agree that Charlize Theron’s performance was mostly excellent. Some bits seemed a little unconvicing though; but I suspect I was paying attention to the acting more closely than usual, because of the critical acclaim.

It’s an unrelentlessly depressing film, with very few “up” moments. I’m still feeling down. Also, there really isn’t much of a plot driving anything, it’s pretty much character-driven.

I still think it was good film, but don’t go into it to be a pleasant time.

I saw it also.

When I tell people about it, I compare it to Legally Blonde.


Partly I say that to get their attention, but there’s actually a serious point to be made. Bear with me here.

Legally Blonde is not a great movie. In terms of script, direction, and such, it’s only as good as it needs to be in order to get from the beginning to the end with a minimum of distraction and fuss. However, it actually earns my recommendation as being worth watching, in my opinion, due to the sheer force of Reese Witherspoon’s marvelous central performance.

Monster is the same thing (but in a totally different genre, obviously). It’s a two-and-a-half starrer that gets bumped up to three stars (or three and a quarter, tops) due to Theron’s amazing portrayal. That’s the Oscar right there, and she deserves it. Really remarkable work.

But the movie she’s in is fairly linear, obvious, and undistinguished. Without Theron, with a less spectacular actor and performance in the lead, it would be a straight-to-HBO flick worth a look only for the subject material. Why Ebert saw fit to give this four stars, I don’t know. Theron gives a four-star performance, but that’s not enough to rescue Christina Ricci’s one-note character, the ploddingly unvarying pace, and the inability of the film to say anything about Wuornos beyond the phenomenal depths of Theron’s performance. Again, without her, there’s surprisingly little there.

(If you want to see what I’m talking about, and look at how a movie takes a depressing based-on-fact story and does something interesting and unusual both narratively and cinematically with it, look at Boys Don’t Cry.)

I agree with Cervaise that it would have been a 2.5 star rating without Theron. I would have enjoyed it if there were some flashbacks to explain her background, instead of her just talking about it, or a bit more development of the other characters, but jeepers, she just overpowered everybody.

I expect a goldguy for her, but the film isn’t even nominated for anything else, is it?