“Blonde,” starring Ana De Armas, was released last Wednesday on Netflix. Andrew Dominik directed and wrote this highly-anticipated biopic – centered around the life and death of actress Marilyn Monroe – which was adapted from the novel “Blonde” by Joyce Carol Oates. Like the book, the film presents a fictionalized take on Monroe’s life.
The movie begins by showing the violent childhood of Norma Jeane – Monroe’s birth name – and follows her rise to fame, along with the details of her romantic relationships.
I enjoyed the film’s fantastic cinematography, especially Dominik’s use of camera qualities characteristic of the 40s, 50s and 60s that make each time period distinct. Different colors are used throughout, as the picture changes from black and white to color as the years progress , a stylistic choice which some may have a problem with. However, the film is unique in consistently surprising viewers throughout the full three hours.
Between the shocking edits and slow-motion pace, it’s a lot for the audience to keep up with, but that is precisely what Monroe’s life was. There were no breaks. She went from movie-to-movie and bounced between love interests constantly – what we see on screen as viewers is precisely the nature of her life. Chaos happens on-screen to reflect Monroe’s mind and lifestyle, and the way the film is shot represents that.
“Blonde” does not put Monroe on a pedestal, and instead opts to open the curtain to the dark side of Hollywood. There is nothing left up for interpretation as the film shows the extent to which Monroe was abused – sexually and physically – throughout her career and her silence in choosing not to speak out due to having so much to lose. Hollywood producers at the time saw Monroe as just a pretty face instead of taking her as a serious actress, which was what she wanted.
De Armas gives her best performance yet, and like Austin Butler did with “Elvis,” she practically transforms into the part of Monroe.
When she isn’t seen sobbing, Monroe is either naked or bloody, a victim of abuse or searching for affirmation from her lovers. This cycle repeats throughout the entire film, and while some of the accounts are not factually true, De Armas captures Monroe’s spirit to a tee. Although you can hear her Cuban accent at times, De Armas mastered Monroe’s soft girlish voice and gave this role everything she had.
The elephant in the room is the film’s controversial NC-17 rating. Some scenes had no reason to be included, like a look inside Monroe’s fetus – which arguably shines a light on the topic of abortion. A dragged-out scene between Monroe and President Kennedy that goes into their yet-to-be-confirmed affair is also drastically fictionalized and disturbing to watch.
In short, the film follows the theme of dehumanizing Hollywood’s beloved icon. If you think you’re going to watch a standard biopic, you will be disappointed. “Blonde” paves a new path for biographical films by introducing elements of horror mixed with blatant disrespect.