Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
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.