TRUE CRIME DRAMA MONST (18) 109min 0000
As a child in South Africa, Charlize Theron saw her mother shoot her alcoholic father dead in self defence. So casting her as Florida serial murderer Aileen Wuornos, who claimed self defence as her original motive for a killing spree, has a certain tawdry glamour to it. Patty Jenkins’ film, which takes its name from a local rollercoaster, initially seems to set out its stall like a carnival side-show, promising us a series of recreations of dirty deeds. Instead, this fabricated version of Wuornos’ story engages our sympathies, presenting the killer as a hapless victim - of circumstances, prejudice and men. Whether it’s true or not, it’s hard to say, but it’s certainly breathless, urgent cinema.
Monster is a well made, if bleak and harrowing, drama that features strong support from Christina Ricci in a unshowy role as Wuornos’ friend, Selby, and a grasp of the cruelties of what’s often termed ‘traiIer-trash life’ that’s closer to John Steinbeck that Jerry Springer. But the real sensation here is Theron, who commands the screen
but is still a genuine revelation. Theron has stood out in fairly vacuous films before - a sun- bleached Amazon goddess in Mighty Joe Young, a slinky safecracker in The Italian Job, 8 femme fatale in Deception - without ever suggesting she had the slightest attachment to any of roles she chose. It’s a grim pleasure, then, to see her get so far under the skin of this demanding, complex role. Some may argue, as have the
Not so pretty, but it’s got plenty of guts
here, making a saint of a murderer and villains of her victims. Yet despite reservations about the veracity of the story, Jenkins’ film pays off in an agonising climactic sequence in which a completely innocent family man begs for his life from an impassive Wuornos. Monster invites us to see the world through the eyes of a killer, to share Wuornos’ righteousness and view of the world. Like its leading lady, it ain’t always pretty, but it’s got guts.
in an unrecognisable turn that’s undeniably assisted by prosthetics,
HISTORICAL DOCUMENTARY THE FOG OF WAR (PG)106min 00000
Assembled from archive footage and 20 hours of one-on-one interviews with Robert McNamara. the former secretary of defence in the Kennedy and Nixon administrations. Errol Morris' compelling dOCUmentary presents McNamara's own perspective of his involvement in events such as WW II. the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam war. Morris. the questioner. stays off-screen. and doesn't call on other witnesses as we watch this still pugnacious 85-year-old recollect decisions he made.
McNamara served as a consultant to General Curtis Le May during the Pacific campaign, helping devise the firebombing raids over Japan that killed 100.000 civilians in Tokyo alone. He was later recruited into the White House by JF Kennedy. and was a key architect in America's disastrous interventionist policies in Vietnam. But Morris uncovers secret White House audio tapes that suggest McNamara's reputation as a warmonger may not be entirely warranted.
McNamara's not the sort of man to make confessions of guilt with regard to his own actions. yet he concedes that ‘if America can't persuade nations of comparable values of the merit of our cause. then we better re-examine our reasons'. The parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. and Donald Rumsfeld and McNamara are unavoidable. If only the lessons of this exceptionally timely film could be imparted to the present occupants of the White House. (Tom Dawson)
I Fi/mhouse. Edinburgh from Fri 2 April. See feautre. page 74.
When McNamara met JFK
24 THE LIST 1—15 Apr 2004
families of those Wuornos killed, that Jenkins overplays her hand
(Eddie Harrison) I General release from Fri 2 Apr.
Making a documentary out of a crisis
DOCUMENTARY CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (15) 107min 00000
Godsmacking's a good word to describe Andrew Jarecki's first documentary feature. Initially. Jarecki set out to make a film about New York's most Successful childrens' clown. 'Silly Billy‘ David Friedman. But after talking to other members of the family Jarecki uncovered a deeply disturbing history of child abuse that resulted in the father, Arnold. and youngest son. Jesse. going to jail. Jarecki's further investigations. during which he spoke with the sons. their mother. Elaine. the police investigators, lawyers. judges. j0urnalists. friends and victims. raise serious questions about the validity of the criminal charges. the investigation and the prosecutions.
Capturing the Friedmans doesn‘t resolve the case. Instead. and with the assistance of the Friedmans“ extensive home movie collection, it portrays a family dealing (and not) with a crisis. The film also describes the mass hysteria among the Friedmans' Long Island neighb0urs after learning of Arnold's arrest in 1987 for possession of child pornography — which prompted hundreds of child abuse claims.
The case itself remains ambiguous because. as Jarecki found. no two people he interviewed told the story the same way. But the ambiguity isn't a problem, because in a sense that's what the film's ab0ut. You might argue it was a lack of clarity that sent Arnold and Jesse to jall. Anyway. at heart (and this film has plenty of that) this compelling docwnentary is about a family. Capturing the Friedmans on film. Jarecki gives them a voice denied for so long. (Miles Fielder)
I Selected release from Fri 9 Apr. See feature. page 74.
COMING OF AGE RAMA
D THE LAST KISS (15) 115min co
Director Gabriele Muccino has a burgeoning reputation in Italy based on the excellence that he showed in his first two films — That's It and But Forever in My Mind — which dealt with the emotional turmoil that surrounds first love and sexual awakening. Unfortunately it is this — his flaccid third effort — that has made its way into UK cinemas.
Carlo (Stefano Accorsi) has got his girlfriend pregnant and this makes him as unhappy as an Italian
man who can't eat his mama‘s cooking. Carlo's fear is accentuated by his best friend Adriano (Giorgio Passoti) moaning constantly about how the arrival of a baby has led to seven months of sexless and loveless marriage. Carlo yearns for the single life of pals Paolo (Claudio Santamaria) and Alberto (Marco Cocci) and fails to see their misery over life's unfulfilled promises. especially when the chance to bed a beautiful 18-year-old student arises.
We are in / Vite/loni and Divorce /ta/ian Sty/e territory. an area that was once the forte of Italian film. but Muccino seems more inspired by Mike Newell than Fellini. A case of misappropriated heritage funds. (Kaleem Aftab)
I Fi/mhouse, Edinburgh from Thu 9 Apr.