Blonde Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A visually artistic & explosive tale, though, narratively an exploitation of an icon, disrespecting her legacy. Ana de Armas, on the other hand, is brilliant as Monroe!
Genre: Biography / Drama / Romance
Director: Andrew Dominik
Cast: Ana de Armas, Julianne Nicholson, Evan Williams, Xavier Samuel, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Toby Huss & Caspar Phillipson
Run Time: 166 min.
US Release: 28 September 2022 (Netflix)
UK Release: 28 September 2022 (Netflix)
German Release: 28 September 2022 (Netflix)
Let me start by saying that this is not an actual biographical feature, it is based on the 2000 novel of the same name, written by Joyce Carol Oates. Just as in the book, this movie presents audiences, with a fictionalised version of Marylin Monroe’s life, something the studio forgot to include at the beginning of the flick. It also does not paint a pretty picture! In fact, I would say that this is one of the most disrespectful representations of an icon, unlike anything I have ever seen. I am sure that Monroe’s life wasn’t squeaky white; she had a difficult childhood, had many sexual partners plus suffered from depression and drug addiction. However, this fictional portrayal goes beyond that!
So let’s get into my review for the FICTIONAL biography of Blonde.
A reimagining of the life of one of Hollywood's most prevailing icons, Marilyn Monroe. Starting with her turbulent childhood as Norma Jeane, through her rise to stardom, including romantic entanglements, the movie blurs the lines of fact and fiction, to explore the ever-growing split between her public and private personas.
Now, I haven’t read Oates' novel, simply knowing that it is over 700 pages long, so I can’t compare her book to this adaptation. Nevertheless, I can tell you from the get-go, that this is the most disgustingly vulgar and depressive flick I have seen in a long time. There is no room to breathe, as the heavy melancholy keeps beating the lead character down, and as an extension also the viewer, time after time. Structurally, it is an incoherent mess, missing cohesive storytelling plus emotional connectivity to the lead character; an artistic choice, undoubtedly, to express the surrealness of a troubled mind, yet one that failed!
Thus, the three-hour long runtime poses another issue. It becomes unbearable to watch with a muddled, confusing narrative like this! Finally, this is my harshest critical point; what Dominik did with the icon of Marilyn Monroe, is simply unforgivable! Norma Jean was an empowered woman in a male-dominated Holywood, during the 50s! Yes, she had troubles, and it is right to portray those, but to dilute her character down to a helpless victim with massive “daddy issues”, while sexualising her legacy on film, an image she tried to get rid of, is simply unforgivable! This feels more like exploitation of her heritage!
That said, the first 10-15 minutes introducing audiences to a young Norma, were helmed from an exciting point of view, playing it like a horror feature, successfully sending chills down once back. It was an imaginative take to represent a volatile childhood. It also manages to build up a creative rift in the third act, between her personalities as Norma and Marilyn.
Dialogues, just like the story, played out partially disturbing, bordering on tastelessness. The fact that Norma kept calling her two husbands “daddy”, was among the most unpleasant 30 minutes, I needed to endure.
Ana de Armas as Norma Jane - a.k.a. Marylin Monroe, crushes it! She fully immerses herself into the person of Norma Jean, with only her Cuban accent breaking through a couple of times, though, never tearing one out of the impression of watching Marilyn on screen! I double down on her real name, as the story makes it clear that the moniker of Monroe, was a character she plaid in public, yet one she never fully identified with. Again, this is a liberty taken to imprint Norma’s worsening psychological condition, but one that felt like it had a grain of truth, as Marylin herself lived inside half-truths.
Although Bobby Cannavale has limited screen time as a side character, He is equally as brilliant! He plays Monroe’s second husband Joe DiMaggio, a former NY Yankees baseball player, as well as an incredible jealous man. It was mentioned by several people close to the actress, that DiMaggio was pushing her to make demands at the studio and might have been physically abusive. Cannavale fully delves into that aspect of the character! Sweet at first, his personality changes to the contrary, once his resentfulness for Norma’s public figure takes over.
Adrien Brody is equally as fascinating as the third husband, play-writer Arthur Miller. Marilyn not only reminds him of someone from his past life but she also gives him insight into her personality. This opens up a fantasy of a happy normal life for both of them, one that sours at the end. Brody brought a sensitive vulnerability to the character of Miller.
While director of photography Chayse Irvin created an impressive-looking original motion picture, full of lush visuals, it included parts I did not agree with! The surreal way how scenes were cut, as well as, transitioning into each other, increased the feeling of dysfunctionality. Then there is a very photographic anti-abortion message embedded, which simply is offensive! That said, the dreamy way in which the narrative was captured is mesmerising. From the changing aspect ratios to distorted backgrounds, from black-and-white scenes that contrast the saturated coloured segments. It is an artistic explosion, or better, cinematic eye candy!
The special effect department also did fantastic work! Whether it was digital, turning the white sheets of bedding slowly into a foamy waterfall. Whether it was melding Ana de Armas’ face into Monroes, to separate both personas visually, it all melded into the next scene seamlessly, looking superb. The costume and make-up department also did a grand job, turning de Armas visually into Norma Jean!
The music, composed by Nick Cave, underlined the surrealness of the plot with organ-heavy melodies and warped sounds. Technically, the sound effects are just as amazing; the creepy echoes add layers of thrill while the simplicity of silence, deepens the effect of a depressing swirl.
Verdict: In the end, I can honestly say this about Netflix’s fictitious biography of one of Hollywood’s most idolised icons: If you are simply interested in artistic cinematography that plays with different aspect ratios and dreamy-like transitions. If you want to see exceptional acting by the complete cast, if you don’t mind that the life of someone was turned into a fictitious plot device, for the sake of being creative, this is a film you might enjoy. If it is a bio-pic of Marilyn Monroe you are after, skip this completely, as it is nothing of the sort! The screenplay portrays her in a really bad light; as a victim of malicious male intent, with severe “daddy issues”, completely forgetting that Monroe herself, fought to change her image and even successfully went head-to-head against the big studio bosses. For me, it was a mixed bag. While infuriated at how her legacy is exploited, I enjoyed the cinematography, score, visual and auditory effects, plus the amazing acting - a 6.5 out of 10.
Have you seen Blonde yet? What is your opinion on this very controversial piece of cinema? Leave a comment & let me know. Thank you very much for reading!