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Heroes of the Zeroes: Monster

by on July 21, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated R

Like an abused animal, prostitute Aileen Wuornos recoiled at affection. Trust isn’t easy for someone equating a touch with sexual transactions or violent trampling. But prey endures pain for so long before trying its hand at becoming a predator.

For Wuornos, self-defense spiraled into fugue states of insatiable fury and vengeance — believing it was her duty to murder anonymous men after projecting onto them the sins of those who’d abused her.

“Monster” is writer-director Patty Jenkins’ 2003 semi-fictionalized account of Wuornos’ crime spree, but those seeking true-crime titillation should go elsewhere.

By “Monster’s” end, nothingness replaces Wuornos’ ferocity — evidence of exhaustive efforts from Jenkins and Oscar-winner Charlize Theron to emphasize Wuornos’ fraying sanity, not her crimes’ sensationalism. Theron makes Wuornos’ delusions as terrifying and unnerving as her violence.

This isn’t mere awards-bait transformation, although Theron is rendered overweight and mottled, with rotted teeth and a shower schedule dictated by the weather forecast.

Wuornos never conjured a dream reality couldn’t kill, and her seeming second chance — a saucer-eyed romance with impressionable lesbian Selby Wall (Christina Ricci) — was a rest stop en route to annihilation.

Predestined doom doesn’t make their obliterated relationship any less heartbreaking. Ultimately, Selby escapes as a “victim” in a way Aileen couldn’t, both a reversal of Selby’s misfortune and strange reinforcement of Aileen’s mad love for her.

Wuornos’ last filmed words were, “Thank you, society, for railroading my ass” — a sobering sendoff showing that just as good can’t exist without evil, societal success can’t exist without tremendous failure.