Biopics have always had a certain popularity, but recently they have been inescapable. The most recent victim of unrest is none other than Marilyn Monroe. Quite frankly, it is understandable why someone would want to make another movie about the Hollywood starlet. As someone who is unfamiliar with her life story beyond the basics, I always try to learn more as time goes by. However, no one can ever seem to get Monroe’s life quite right, and it is no different in Andrew Dominik‘s Blonde, which is perhaps the worst of the lot.
The 2022 take on Monroe’s life is an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ 738-page biographical fiction novel. The film prides itself on being a sort of psychological drama despite being a fictionalized work as well. The stacked cast of the film includes Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, Julianne Nicholson, and, of course, Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe.
I will not pretend to know every detail of Marilyn Monroe’s life. However, to produce a piece of fiction and declare it a sort of vindicated portrayal of a vulnerable woman feels more and more exploitative as time goes by. With a runtime of 166 minutes, you never really get a chance to breathe. Neither does Norma Jeane Mortenson.
It feels as though Dominik is trying to make his own watered-down version of Satoshi Kon’s 1997 psychological thriller Perfect Blue. Both films tackle two female protagonists who are at odds with their own reality. They start questioning their own sanity, their own value, and their own place in the world. However, while Satoshi Kon is able to provide a steady narrative with a message, Dominik’s work falls short of meaning and purpose. It is ultimately empty.
As viewers, we are never allowed moments of tenderness or moments where we see Monroe truly be happy. The few ones that exist are cut short or undermined by another looming presence in her life, often by men. Every moment that features a semblance of joy feels orchestrated. None of it is genuine or real. While she is the protagonist, we never truly see a substantial person. Ana de Armas seems to play Monroe as a caricature of a damsel in distress.
Through this, Dominik attempts to criticize the capabilities of men and how easily corruptible they are in the presence of a desirable woman as they try to possess her. It all falls into emotional manipulation as it creates an unsafe environment driven purely by shock value. The audience is subjected to voyeuristic perversion as we witness the capricious psyche of Andrew Dominik’s creation.
Blonde is an assault not only on the protagonist but also on the senses of the viewer. Her pain and suffering are reduced to mere female hysteria. Blonde frames Monroe’s pain all as having been absurdly inherited from her mother – who tries to drown her at the very beginning.
Leaving the movie theater after witnessing this film, I did not feel anger nor did I feel contentment. I felt nothing. For a film to leave viewers with emptiness, when art is meant to inspire something within the viewer, is a shame. A film as provocative as this should at least elicit some sort of compassionate reaction. In the end, Blonde is further proof that female pain is mere spectacle in the eyes of society. The care the crew swears they made this film with is glaringly absent.
While Blonde made some genuinely interesting creative choices, the film nonetheless treats Monroe as a stunted child and constantly humiliates her. Beyond that, it is completely irresponsible to incorrectly showcase multiple pregnancies with a CGI fetus (yes, this happened). The anti-choice agenda the film pursues further feeds into violence as it forces Monroe to undergo multiple abortions against her will, with the exception of one miscarriage.
Blonde is a careless and irresponsible film that feeds into melodrama and exhibitionism to provoke. It fails to respect a woman whose life was always out of her control and is complicit in fueling the publicly cruel dissection of Monroe’s life. Ultimately, Blonde says nothing about Monroe and everything about the way the media has used her life for profitable spare parts.
Blonde is currently playing in select theaters. It will be available to stream exclusively on Netflix on September 28.