Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”
Too bad this DVD includes a trailer for "Monster" and footage from "Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer," two superior films about the same subject. Wuornos was such an electric person that when her temper arrives on-camera in this doc, it looks like sparks are going to start coming out of the television. But the long story of her road to execution is less than captivating, and the themes explored here (the questionable sanity of a person asking for execution, the life of abuse that leads one to murder, the exploitation by bottom-feeding media types) are so well-trodden by similar films and Nick Broomfield's earlier work that this film is barely necessary. Apparently Broomfield thought that getting access to Wuornos in her final days on death row compelled him to devote another film to her, but the end result isn't justified.
That's partly the fault of a lack of a central message. The film makes so many arguments that near the end it begins jumping from one to the next in mere sentences. It demonstrates that Wuornos was too crazy to be executed, yet acknowledges that the law is clear about that not mattering. It shows us how crazy Wuornos went after ten years on death row, as though she was perfectly sane when she murdered seven strangers. It purports to tell her true story (Broomfield calls her the most honest person in the movie), but watches as she changes her story to suit the way the legal winds are blowing. It half-heartedly explores her early life, as suggested by the title, but glosses over her teen years because it doesn't have witnesses in a courtroom compelled to tell stories about them (which is where it gets many details of her pre-adolescence). It paints Jeb Bush as a villain for scheduling her execution just before an election, but shows that he's simply obeying the law and indeed even Wuornos's wishes by granting her a quick execution after she waives her final appeal. It even goes after media types who seek to build careers out of Wuornos's suffering, simultaneously retrodding the subject of the previous documentary and ignoring the fact that it's part of the problem. This documentary is like a shooting game in the video arcade, a dollar for one minute of gunplay: The gun gets fired at many different targets and almost always misses, and the game ends not because an objective has been achieved but because the running time has elapsed.