While I’m glad we crossed off some Oscar-nominated films during April, the month felt a lot like homework. And critical favor is so fleeting…is anyone going to be watching Licorice Pizza 10 years from now?
Of course, films that veer into tacky and trashy territory are much more our speed, so this May is dedicated to movies that under no circumstances would ever be award winners. Is there any category more fitting than horror based on serial killer true crime?
Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman
Facing execution, serial killer Aileen Wuornos recounts her early days, including an ill-fated marriage to a much older man.
First interviewing the subject of your documentary the day before their execution feels like poor planning, but we’re apparently meant to believe this is something a good filmmaker would do. The fictional filmmaker of this fictional documentary (but confusingly based on a real documentary?) is determined to be the one to get compelling footage of Aileen Wuornos making never-before-seen confessions, though she has very little incentive to do so beyond enjoying the sound of her own voice.
For whatever reason, Aileen opts to do a deep dive on her brief early marriage to a much older man and the aftermath, years before the serial murders she committed. Though she hasn’t yet murdered, Aileen demonstrates violent tendencies from a young age, fairly regularly fighting, assaulting, and/or robbing johns as well as other men she encounters. In Aileen’s recounting, these men were by and large attempted rapists who had it coming.
It’s after punching a man who accuses her of being a lesbian that Aileen has a fateful meeting with Jennifer, and the two seem to be mutually attracted to each other. When Jennifer invites Aileen home to the family mansion, she doesn’t realize she’s about to introduce her father, Lewis, to his future wife. Aileen charms Lewis so completely that they’re married soon after.
Jennifer is shocked by the turn of events, vowing to dig up dirt on Aileen and remove her from the family forever. Considering that Aileen ends up being arrested for assault on the night of her wedding, probably not an overly difficult task.
As Jennifer keeps an eye on Aileen, she realizes that her new stepmother has problems with rage and impulsivity, along with a massive chip on her shoulder as she grew up poor. When Lewis’s friend and financial advisor manages to uncover information about Aileen’s prior troubles with the law, it seems she has no choice but to leave town.
But more than one character may find that underestimating Aileen is the last thing they’ll ever do…alive.
2/5 Pink Panther Heads
I will forgive anything but a boring film, and I found this one surprisingly dull, to be honest. This was supposed to have a theatrical release, but that was cancelled…and it’s not a shock as this one has an extremely made-for-TV feel. The plot is highly formulaic, the acting bad, and the dialogue horrible. I do appreciate the schlocky title, but that’s about it.
There’s a very good reason most discussions of Aileen’s annulled marriage to a much older man aren’t the focus of most media about her life: this is probably the most uninteresting thing about her. In anyone else’s life, the transparent gold-digging might make for a juicy story, but I’m guessing most of those cases don’t involve serial murders.
Because there are quite a few nods to Old Hollywood noir, I was really hoping for some soapy plot twists. Maybe Aileen and Jennifer would give in to a forbidden romance, scheme to murder Lewis, or have an unsettling Sunset Boulevard-style dynamic. None of these things happen, and Jennifer comes across as totally brainless and so dull. Aileen is somehow kind of boring to watch as well.
From my perspective, what it comes down to is the flawed concept that playing with what’s true and what isn’t will make for an interesting film. Aileen is cast as an unreliable narrator, reflecting the contradictory stories she told in reality. However, the film doesn’t push this concept far enough, sticking with fact in a way that confines the events that depart from reality. It’s not inventive enough to be stranger or more sensational than what actually happened.