Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer

Dir. Broomfield
Opens Fri April 16
Hollywood Theater

Documentarian Nick Broomfield is both a genius and a hack. The director of Kurt and Courtney, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam, and now Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Nick might not ask the right questions, but he gets all the right interviews.

Aileen Wuornos, if you haven't seen Broomfield's initial documentary (or the recent film Monster), was a Florida hooker who snapped and, over one year, killed seven johns--some of whom were attempting to rape her. The case was special not only because she was America's first known female serial killer, but because the investigating officers made a secret deal with Wuornos' former lover and a Hollywood studio to sell the details of her tragic story.

Because the police, Aileen's loved ones, and even her lawyer were conspiring to make money off her case, Aileen became extremely paranoid of interviews--not wanting to give anyone more fodder for an unauthorized book or film. Her reluctance to speak out is what makes it so amazing that Broomfield was able to earn Wuornos' trust, so much so that she conducts her final pre-execution interview with him.

Combining footage from his original Wuornos documentary with interviews that fail to reveal any new facts, plus footage of Aileen's final appeal trial, Nick makes a film similar to his original. He highlights Aileen's fragile state of mind, the failures of her family, friends, and legal council, and his own ineptitude as interviewer.

The film meanders and will neither startle nor amaze; Broomfield arrives at no new conclusions. That doesn't mean it's not entertaining, though, because listening to Aileen Wuornos speak is fascinating. Despite her tenuous grip on reality, she reveals herself as a strong woman who has been completely fucked over by everyone around her. She begs for execution and refuses to discuss her case any further, not wanting to hurt her chances of receiving the lethal injection. Because life has only given her pain and suffering, she prefers to be reunited with God. While Broomfield gives us the footage, it's really Aileen Wuornos who's the talent.