Friday July 2, 2010 17:37

Movie #0028 – Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992)

Posted by Michael

Directed by: Nick Broomfield
Starring: Nick Broomfield, Arlene Pralle, Steve Glazer
First Viewing

Synopsis: A documentary about a filmmaker’s interactions with Aileen Wuornos’ adoptive mother and her less-than-competent lawyer as he attempts to gain access to Wuornos herself.

Well, this is a bit of a puzzlement. The list isn’t exactly doc-heavy (this is the first documentary I’ve watched for this blog thus far), so this seems like kind of an odd choice — it’s interesting enough, I guess, but it’s kind of low-rent and not exactly a shining example of what the medium is capable of. Not that I’m a huge documentary guy; I’ll admit that my interest as a filmgoer lies more with fiction than non-fiction. But even as an unseasoned documentary viewer, it’s pretty clear that this just isn’t all that great.

In fact, I had to consult the book itself to see why this mostly unremarkable doc warranted inclusion on a list of essential films. Apparently, it “[sheds] a piercing light on the underbelly of the American character” and is a “riveting, hop-scotching documentary.” Fair enough on the first count, I suppose, though personally I would disagree that this is anywhere near riveting.

I think the main problem here is that the film is never entirely sure about what it wants to be — is it about Arlene Pralle, a woman who bizarrely adopted Wuornos after she had already been arrested for seven murders? Is it about Wuornos herself? Or is it about director Nick Broomfield’s attempts to get access to Wuornos? The film doesn’t really have a clear focus, which prevents it from being quite as effective as it could have been. Pralle is probably the film’s most interesting figure (well, aside from Wuornos herself, but the film seems to have no interest in exploring her crimes in a meaningful way), but Broomfield sort of meanders around, spending just as much time with Wuornos’ incompetent, guitar-playing lawyer, a thread which doesn’t particularly go anywhere. Ultimately, it’s this lack of any kind of unifying thesis that really prevents this doc from being particularly effective.

Buy the movie on Amazon

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