Monster Roleby Brandon Edmonds / 18.08.2009
Charlize losing her accent brings up a painful question: who wants to be associated with white South Africa anyway? No matter how much we’ve changed. Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi Oscar speech was undeniably stirring – “our stories are the same as your stories” – but what did America take away from it, besides giving him the chance to direct the witless Wolverine? Well, the LA Times found his voice scarily “reminiscent of vintage Schwarzenegger.” To them he’s a Germanic android. No wonder she ditched the taal. But Theron cannot outrun her Apartheid beginnings. In ‘The Cider House Rules’ (1999) she treats seasonal black vine-pickers with such convincingly effortless indifference that it must surely have come from treating people that way growing up.
She’s come a long way though. In the recent ‘Hancock’ (2008), despite being married to another, she and Will Smith enticingly circle each other on the brink of (gasp) miscegenation, breaking the twin taboos of race and fidelity.
Nee sies, Charlize!
But her great role, calling on everything that has made her who she is, her extraordinary odyssey from Benoni to Beverly Hills, is ‘Monster’ (2003). As gay serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, Theron beefed up, turned her back on exfoliation, and tapped into her legacy of man trouble (a bad Father lost). She looks remarkably like the real Aileen. A bloated working class drifter. Theron is from Benoni. She’s been around a few of these social types.
She genuinely inhabits the role. It’s a remarkable performance. Charlize plays ugliness as if her life depends on it. With a naturalist zeal that suggests she has a personal stake in the part. It’s as if her own ‘ugly beginnings’ are being worked through. Maybe its her white South Africanness being shown in all its ugliness. What lies beneath the celebrity skin. The racism, the murder, the hate. Maybe it’s not only a nasty true story being re-enacted, but Theron’s association with a reactionary pre-Mandela South African identity being fully owned up to, and thereby transcended. It’s an expiation. An Oscar-worthy confession of what it means to be ugly. Objectively, socially ugly. It took courage.