It’s anti-Award Winning month here on the blog and if I’m completely honest, I’ve been more pumped to dive into this than all the movies that were beloved by the Academy. Which I guess is hardly a shocker given our love of the sublime and ridiculous.
Anyway, rather than autopsy the work of everybody’s favourite auteurs – Campion, Spielberg, Villeneuve, Paul Thomas Anderson – in May we’re going to celebrate those movies brutally overlooked by a board of stuffy fat cats in suits who’ve probably never watched Ouija Shark anyway – and how can you trust the opinion of anyone like that?
We start with a very much yassified reconstruction of Aileen “Lee” Wournos’ early years and her 9 week marriage to a well-to-do Commodore – before the seven ‘official’ murders, incarceration and subsequent execution on Death Row.
America’s most notorious female serial killer.
Based on Aileen Wuornos’s early life, America’s most notorious female serial killer, back in 1976 a young Aileen arrives in Florida searching for a new life that will help her escape her tragic past, marries a wealthy Yacht Club president and has the chance to start again as part of Florida’s high society.
TW: Sexual assault, violence
Rotting alone in prison, Aileen Wournos has seen better days. Still, you can’t keep a good man-hater down and she’s still relatively energetic when she’s visited by a young documentary crew on Death Row. Eager to talk non-stop about herself, Aileen (who will be referred from now on as ‘Lee’) gladly opens up about her younger, prettier days and how she came to be married to a millionaire yacht club president for nine short weeks.
It’s a rollercoaster kids, so buckle up.
1976 and a young, attractive blonde woman is doing what she can to get by on the streets. The woman, you guessed it, is Aileen Carol Wournos (an extremely generous version, played by Peyton List) and early signs suggest that things aren’t going to go smoothly for her in life – or anybody who crosses her path.
One night, Lee meets Jennifer (Lydia Hearst) a woman similar in age to herself. Jennifer invites Lee to join her and her friends on the beach for a beer – but our girl immediately assaults one of the guys when he tries it on with her, then gets aggressive. Rather than be put off, Jen immediately likes Lee more and invites her back to her home.
In the morning, Lee meets Jennifer’s old dad, Lewis Fell (Tobin Bell) in the kitchen. Mistakenly having put on the late Mrs Fell’s bathrobe, there’s an awkward moment until Lee breaks the ice with a dad joke, and Lewis is hooked.
Perturbed to catch Lee boning her father later that evening, Jennifer quickly learns this is the least of her worries, because the randy pair get married mere days later – and all their lives are changed forever. And not in a good way.
On her first day as the new Mrs Fell, Lee sneaks out to one of her old haunts – a hideous dive bar – and gets herself in a bit of a pickle with some locals, one of whom tries to rape her. She hits back and winds up in the clink waiting to be bailed out. Lewis isn’t best pleased but forgives his wife and proudly shows off their wedding notice, published in the society pages. Lee takes this surprise badly, almost as if she has something to hide…
Jennifer is still struggling with her new stepmother but decides she might catch more flies with honey and tries to reach out, which backfires magnificently. On a sailing trip, Lewis’ attorney Victor (Nick Vallelonga) tells him he’s going to dig into Lee’s past to find out what kind of a person she really is. Eeeeek.
Later Jennifer finds out Lee has written her out of her father’s will and Victor confronts her with his findings. Trying to buy her off with a neat £10k, Lee mocks the low sum then murders Victor in Lewis’ study, followed by Victor’s horrible son. Unfortunately for Lee, she’s spotted burying the bodies by an optimistic blackmailer who’s not going to let her off easy.
From here it’s only downhill as Lee loses grip on her new life, finds out who her blackmailer is – and implodes what’s left of her marriage. But, as the documentary filmmakers are inclined to ask: is any of this story actually true?
I mean, we weren’t expecting much were we? Despite the low score, which is as generous as the liberties they’ve taken with the young Lee, I had a good time.
The acting is appalling but also almost campy which makes it almost good. Nearing the climax there’s a delicious shot of Lee in a huge hat and it’s so pantomime villain, I had to shriek with pleasure. A couple of times I did wonder if the cinematographer deliberately lit this like a Spanish telenovela, particularly during the murders.
That’s about the most I can say about this. It’s pretty by the numbers, though it’s not clear how much of this is re-enactment or complete fiction. Aileen’s real life seemed intriguing enough without the need to embellish but perhaps the complete farce of her stories is saying something about the character herself.
As it’s told from Aileen’s POV, every man we meet – apart from Lewis – is a would-be rapist. While I understand they can be the worst, it’s a lot to stomach. However it does lend an interesting angle to the film, Lee sees every man as a threat because of everything she’s been through – which seems fair – but how long before the self defence argument gets old?
Not a good start for this month though, does that in turn make it the perfect choice?
– Genres: Drama ∙ Horror ∙ Thriller ∙ Comedy?
– IMDB user rating: 3.6
– My score: 1.5/5
– Runtime: 85 mins