Starring-Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale
Scott’s Review #1,305
Reviewed October 7, 2022
Blonde (2022) is not the kind of film that I expected.
When I became aware there would be a new film vehicle showcasing the legendary film icon Marilyn Monroe I guessed that it would be a biography-style effort. After all, this is hardly the first time the star’s life would be explored.
Throw in bits about her struggles, her love life, her famous screen roles, and her rise to fame and there you’d have it.
My only real thought was who would be playing her?
Films about Marilyn have been done before including the most recent effort I can recollect, My Week With Marilyn (2011) starring Michelle Williams, a superior film but hardly groundbreaking or that well remembered ten years later.
Released via the Netflix streaming service, director Andrew Dominik kicks the shit out of any preconceived notions about glamorous, happy, and rich Marilyn.
He creates a story focused on the dark side of the star. Her failures, her insecurities, her forced abortions, and her humiliations. The result is a film that is tragic and profound and should be well remembered.
Blonde delves into facts and some of the deeper thoughts of the legend herself, creating a muddy and dreamlike quality that makes the viewer apprehensive about what’s going on.
Since it’s based on the 2000 fictional memoir written by Joyce Carol Oates which is her own interpretation of events, it makes truth, and imagination all the muddier.
It’s not happy days watching Blonde, which left me wondering if Marilyn had a happy day in her life. From her abortions to sexual harassment, drug addiction, and physical abuse by her husband, she excitedly scampers off to a date with President Kennedy, only to be forced to give him oral service.
Ana de Armas, known for Knives Out (2019) and No Time to Die (2021) is brilliant as Marilyn. Her mannerisms, speech patterns, and facial expressions reveal a genuine, layered, portrayal rather than a carbon copy imitation of her.
Blonde boldly reimagines the life of one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons in two hours and forty-seven minutes of storytelling. Advisable is to not watch the film in one sitting but rather spread it over three nights to let things marinate.
Events begin with her volatile childhood as Norma Jeane, an abusive mother and absent father, and her rise to stardom and romantic entanglements. Blonde blurs the lines of fact and fiction to explore the widening split between her public and private selves.
In a way, Marilyn suffered from a split personality, longing to be Norma Jeane and despising Marilyn.
Enhancing the ambiguity Dominik elects to use cinematography that is sometimes blurry as if in a sleepy haze and sprinkles color with the mostly black and white filming. He even films one abortion scene from the perspective of Marilyn’s vagina.
These creative details cause me to classify Blonde as an art film and highly interpretive.
While not a crowd-pleaser Blonde is not all doom and gloom either.
Tidbits about her most famous films, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and Some Like it Hot (1959) are featured as one or two neat camera tricks so it appears that de Armas is acting opposite Tony Curtis.
I worry that poor reviews for Blonde may hinder de Armas’s chances of receiving an Academy Award nomination. Positive reviews usually help secure Oscar recognition.
Thankfully, despite many critics and viewers having issues with the film, de Armas has received worldwide acclaim.
Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody are very good as Marilyn’s husbands, controlling Joe DiMaggio and insecure artist Arthur Miller. Both actors fuse good acting with distinguished portrayals so that the audience sees the appeal of both men.
Other interesting sub-plots involve Monroe’s ‘throuple’ romance with bisexual actors Cass and Eddy, and a haunting exposure of the abuse suffered by Marilyn at the hands of her mother Gladys, wonderfully played by Julianne Nicholson.
There is little doubt that Blonde (2022) is an odd film that is not for everyone. But, its down-and-dirty texture and tour de force portrayal of Monroe won me over.
It chilled me to the bone in the best possible way.