Written by: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, Julianne Nicholson
As a genre, biopics can run so hot and cold as most of them serve as a way to honor the life of individuals and the impact they’ve had on the people around them and also the world depending on the person. At times they can be too favorable to the person being examined, almost to a degree where their negative traits get ignored for the sake of painting a positive picture of the individual. It’s what makes the creation of something like Blonde so refreshing in a demented way. However, when it gets crafted in the manner it does in this feature, especially considering the figure involved, its tasteless depiction joins in on the cruelty rather than just simply highlighting it.
Living her life with the promises of a father who has abandoned her, Norma Jeane (Ana de Armas) grows into a massive star, going by the name Marilyn Monroe. While her journey toward the top of her career comes with fame, she also experiences horrific abuse from all of the men in her life.
Depiction not equalling endorsement continues to be a major discussion among cinephiles in how a film shows horrific incidents happening to the characters in the film. Especially when it occurs on characters linked to real people, it can get so messy. While this argument is something the filmmakers behind this production would make when defending this film, when it gets to the degree it does in this movie to the point where the person being studied simply feels like a piece of meat, it feels insanely cruel. Yes, this film wants to be about how the men in Marilyn Monroe’s life did nothing but cause her harm and how she got crushed under the weight of a system in Hollywood looking to chew women up and spit them out, watching this feature demonstrates that the filmmakers almost reveled in this gross depiction. May not be the intention, but it’s certainly how it comes across, without a doubt.
Particularly when it comes to a particular scene with a famous politician, this feeling becomes absolutely rooted in a reality where it proves to be unnecessarily horrible in a way that no figure deserves. The cruelty feels even worse given the figure at the center of it all, Marilyn Monroe. An individual who did indeed suffer at the hands of the people around her and simply had to grin and bear it all to live the lifestyle she did. This even continues after her death with rumors and beliefs about aspects of her life that are beyond degrading to a baffling degree. She certainly falls into the category of someone who deserves to rest in peace and frankly, should be left alone. This film not only did not do that, but reveled in the horrific content on display. The worst thing about it, however, proves to be that Monroe is presented as some hapless victim and in all honesty, someone quite dumb, which only adds fuel to the argument of this being such a tasteless representation of her life. Add on that there are fictional events added without any indication for anyone who would not know better, and it simply gets even more horrifying.
This does not come as a particular surprise when you hear about the source material for this feature and the controversies surrounding it, but this feature received the benefit of the doubt initially, at least from me, because of the man at the center of its production, Andrew Dominik. A filmmaker who has made a name for himself for being brash and blunt with his filmmaking, he proved to not be the right person to tell this story. He demonstrates a lack of sympathy through the telling of this narrative that only became more evident in the interviews he gave. While these interviews have no bearing on the quality of the movie, it certainly adds context that only confirms the intentions he had in telling this story along with his feelings towards Marilyn Monroe as a whole.
As distasteful as it all is, there are undoubtedly terrific elements to the filmmaking. Dominik, on a technical level, crafts something incredibly hypnotic and visually stunning. Shifting between black-and-white and color allows for scenes to be striking in their presentation. The moments of ambiguity show the struggles of Monroe and it comes together through a spellbinding performance by Ana de Armas that shows her brilliance while also being farcical at the same time. She does not land Monroe’s accent or many of her definitive elements of her, but the performance is still fantastic in a weird way. She demonstrates what makes her such a star but she found herself in a project that has no care for the character at its core. Her performance just gets lost, which is quite astounding when she’s so committed.
There’s no way to recommend Blonde to anyone I respect, especially women as this feature has no regard for that sex at all. Just an unfortunate production that the optimist in me would like to believe began with good intentions but proved to not as the film continued. It shows Monroe as a brainless victim of the world around her, which not only clashes with the reality of the individual but also the conventions of storytelling. Please, just leave Marilyn Monroe alone.