The true story of serial killer Aileen Wuernos who was convicted of luring men to their death and eventually executed in 2002. In 1989, she was working as a prostitute and finally makes a friend when she meets and begins a relationship with a young woman, Selby. Determined to straighten out her life, she tries to find legitimate work but with little education and limited social skills, she fails at every turn. She starts working as a hooker hitching rides along the local interstate highway and after robbing a few clients has an encounter with a vicious client whom she kills in self-defense. After that however she just takes to killing clients taking their money and car. Once arrested she claims self-defense but is eventually convicted. Written by
The plate Aileen takes off the Grand Am has a light green Florida map and a yellow tax sticker which was not used after 1987. See more »
I always wanted to be in the movies.
When I was little I thought for sure that one day, I could be a big, big star. Or maybe just beautiful... beautiful and rich, like the women on TV. Yeah, I had a lot of dreams. And I guess you can call me a real romantic, because I truly believe that one day, they'll come true. So I dreamed about it for hours. As the years went by, I learnt to stop sharing them with people. They said I was dreaming. But back then, I believed it...
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An intense, depressing movie. It sticks pretty close to the facts but focuses chiefly on the relationship between Charlize Theron as Lee and Christina Ricci as Selby. The police are hardly there at all. In fact, neither is anyone else except for Bruce Dern who makes one or two short but welcome appearances.
It could easily have been a by-the-numbers TV movie. (Come to think of it, it has, hasn't it? With Jean Smart?) But the production values are good, and the time and money has been spent on this film that we usually associate with feature films.
The cinematography is outstanding. The shots of Lee near the end of her rope, hitching on a foggy blue nightime Florida highway look like a desktop theme from some arty horror/occult site. The script doesn't have many tag lines. No "Rosebuds" or "I coulda been a contendah." Nor is it folksy or catching in some other way. The dialogue follows the story in being pretty straightforward and without much in the way of noticeable touches. The director should be commended on her handling of two things. One is the explanation for Lee's crimes. None is given. There is a short scene in which Lee tells one of her johns about her miserable childhood, but the abuse excuse is vitiated by Selby's mother, an orthodox and unimaginative woman, who says simply that lots of people have hard childhoods without growing up like Lee. And the men are not all turned into sadistic hogs, which must have been a temptation for the writers. The second virtue in the direction is its management of the murders. Instead of exploding heads, there are a few squibs, and usually not even that, before the victim yields to the fathomless, cool, enwinding arms of death. The themes explored here are not so much violence as love and desperation.
Ricci looks the part, with her broad forehead and tiny lips, but comes across more as a Valley Girl than the kind of outcast who would pick up and move off with someone like Lee.
Which brings us to Theron's performance as Lee. It's startling, of course, to see a glamor-puss like Theron so thoroughly deglamorized. It's the kind of performance that wins Academy Awards -- lesbians, the height-challenged, autistics, all have won awards in recent years. Theron deserves recognition for her effort too, but not just because of the makeup and wardrobe. They're all splendid. Makeup has shaved her brows to a Mona Lisa extent and turned her face just blotchy enough and given her a raggedy set of teeth.
But that's not all that has made her performance as the central character so memorable. (She's in almost every frame.) And it isn't the thirty or so pounds that she put on for the role either. What's so homeric about that? I can put on thirty pounds without blinking an eye, and enjoy doing it. Heck, I can put on forty or fifty if she wants to get into a peeing contest. No -- it's Theron herself who MAKES the character. She's great, particularly in her physical manifestation of Lee -- her body language, for instance. Instead of coasting through the role, she animates it. The way she struts around with her shoulders thrown back and her face down, emphasizing her several chins and the girth of her neck. Maybe it takes a profession ballerina to figure out these little techniques. Her voice isn't as coarse as that of a hooker who constantly puffs on cigarettes, but Theron does what she can with her own. She overcomes her native South African speech with no trouble and introduces us to a breathless bravado that she's never used on screen before -- not that I know of.
Her movements, her speech, her dreams, are filled with a desperate illusion that doesn't exactly make us feel sorry for her but does make us worry for her -- that she might, for instance, start screaming at any minute and never stop. A nerve-racking picture of a ruined soul.
Is it worth seeing? Absolutely. You won't learn too much about how Aileen Wournos turned into the person she did. Even the narrative itself is a little confusing at time, so that you can't be sure where Lee and Selby are at given moments. But it's Hollywood professionalism at one of its rare high points. It's made by a mature team for an audience of adults. Refreshing.
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