Monster

Monster - Blu-Ray Review

★★★★★

The film: 5 stars

Long before Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984, director
Patty Jenkins made her name with another tale of a strong woman,
forging her way in the world without the need of any man to help her
– of course, it’s the true life story of serial killer and
prostitute Aileen Wuornos. OK, so perhaps she’s not the most positive
feminist rôle model ever (though she
apparently thought of herself as one). In truth, her story is more
complex than the “serial killer” label – and, certainly, the
“monster” label – makes it appear, and Patty Jenkins’ sensitive
script makes that apparent in its astonishing ability to cast an
empathetic, if not necessarily sympathetic, eye on Wuornos without
ever trivialising her crimes, nor indeed their impact on those around
her, such as her doe-eyed girlfriend Selby (Christina Ricci, at her
peak) and sympathetic male friend Thomas (played with typical
gravitas by Bruce Dern). But the real draw is Charlize Theron’s
astonishing transformation into the embodiment of the real Wuornos.
It may not be entirely apparent from the string of action
blockbusters she’s spent the years since playing in, but she
demonstrates herself here as an extremely capable actress, her
physicality, voice and demeanour utterly foreign to any part she’s
played before or since. Equally unrecognisable is her face, one of
the great prosthetic jobs in the history of the cinema, transforming
one of the world’s most beautiful faces into, well, the craggy mask
that the hard life of a streetwalker will tend to give you. Not for
nothing did Theron win Best Actress at that year’s Oscars, though the
Academy unaccountably failed to even nominate the makeup team. Beyond its technical excellence, however, what makes the film so endlessly haunting is its depiction of the long, slow slide of moral decline. Wuornos’ first “victim” is a would-be rapist killed in self-defence; yet, the mere act of killing, itself, changes a person, regardless of how justifiable the circumstances are. Wuornos’ ensuing crazy tilt into serial killing is so believable that she’s almost sympathetic even as she executes a blameless, and perfectly lovely, priest. You might not want to go down this path; certainly identifying with a murderess is an unsettling feeling. Yet the film remains entirely persuasive, and that is its great achievement.

Audio and visuals: 4 stars

Jenkins and cinematographer Steven Bernstein’s gritty, down-at-heel style looks about as crisp here as it ever will – or, indeed, should.

Presentation: 3 stars

The menu plays a short, simple loop. If you take the time to watch the
extras – and you should – you’ll be beyond sick of the brief
score excerpt. The packaging, however, is hauntingly lovely.

Extras: 5 stars

Extras here include a director’s commentary by Patty Jenkins; “Making a Murderer”, which is a long and fascinating interview with Jenkins
in which she discusses in some detail her partial sympathy for
Wuornos; “Light from Within”, in which cinematographer Steven
Bernstein discusses, well, the film’s cinematography; “Monster: The
Vision and Journey”, taking us through the film’s development;
“Based on a True Story: The Making of Monster”, an archival
making-of made redundant by the superior “Monster: The Vision and
Journey”; the inevitable deleted scenes, presented with or without
commentary, and the self-explanatory “Monster: Evolution of the
Score”.

Overall: 5 stars

Second Sight have taken what was already a must-see film and turned it into
a must-own.

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