Before you read this post I recommend you read the one on 21 Grams first. It will help you understand this review better. The reason being is both Theron and Watts were nominated for Oscars in their respective roles within the same year. I wish to juxtapose the two performances somewhat.
I didn't see this on the big screen and I can't remember why. Charlize Theron can be an enigma as an actress. She can play some superb roles ( The Valley of Elah ) or some crummy ones ( think Aeon Flux ). She doesn't seem to have an inbetween type film. Unfortunately as a good looking woman she is used as eye-candy to gain an audienece for a film.
But what a transformation for Monster! You wouldn't believe it is Theron at all. She gained weight and wore false teeth etc to radically change her appearance. But her apperance is only part of the story as this alone would not have been effective if Theron couldn't convince us of the role. She does...sublimely.
It is somewhat unfortunate when it comes to awards that with two great performances there has to be a winner and loser. Watts was breath taking in 21 Grams and I can't praise her enough. I went into Monstersomewhat prejudiced in believing that Theron couldn't top Watts. Right throughout the film I kept that belief but the very last few seconds as Theron is led of to be executed I changed my mind.
I don't think for one instance that Theron was better than Watts, she isn't, but nor is her performance any less than Watts. They are both brilliant and I won't say which one is better because it is simply uncallable. For me 21 Grams is by far the superior film overall. The acting and non-lineal method of its making lifts it way beyond Monster. Monster is a conventionally made film with it's strength in the power of both Theron and Ricci's acting. Sometimes a good script and acting can lift a film from good to great.
Monster is a great film because of Theron. She, like Watts 'becomes' the character. Ricci has been an under performing actress for many years but here she is superb and compliments Theron extremely well.
It is somewhat unfortunate in the title. Theron's character is a seriously mentally ill woman who ends up killing her potential sexual clients for their money. She has gone down as a serial killer but, to me, just because she murdered 6 men doesn't make her one in the traditional sense. This doesn't, for my mind, make her a monster. She killed for money not the thrill and satisfaction that most serial killers do. It wasn't a thrill to her as it became a necessity to make money without giving up her body. And right after she started killing she displayed no pleasure in what she had done. I'd call her a multiple murderer rather than a serial killer.
It is a sad film. It is an indictment that mentally ill people are so judged and abused because of their illness. They fall through the cracks of society as there is little help for them. And, whilst Theron's character did commit murder , which is unjustified, the films wishes the viewer not to judge her, and highlights the moralities of the death penalty. She was ill and really didn't deserve the sentence. Life would have been more appropriate because her mental condition.
Is it better than 21 Grams as a film...not even close! But Watts and Theron are stunning in their prospective roles, and both films should be seen for the two great female performances of 2003.