Blonde: It's A Movie!
Updated: Feb 8
Biopics have a difficult job of being truthful to the person they’re about, while also having to be entertaining enough for a general audience who may not be knowledgeable about the subject. The best of them are great balancing acts, juggling both sides of the coin. Most of the biopics that get released around Awards season usually check one of those two boxes. Occasionally one comes out that is neither all that truthful, nor all that entertaining. Such is Blonde, a movie based on a “fictionalized biography” of Marilyn Monroe.
At Least It's Pretty:
We’ll start with the few positives of this film. Visually, this movie has some absolutely stunning cinematography. There are several shots that are beautifully composed, and if they were taken as just screenshots, they'd be stunning. Ana de Armas looks remarkably like Monroe, pulling off the signature blonde curls and beauty mark. Overall, the character designs, costuming and makeup makes all of the historical figures really come to life. Adrien Brody as Monroe’s third husband Arthur Miller looks spot on, and captures his mannerisms to great effect. I can’t lie and say that there was a ton of this movie that I enjoyed, but his performance was a solid highlight.
This movie is just...weird. It’s shot in a style that is not really consistent throughout; shifting from black and white to color, with random blurs and zoom-ins that almost make one nauseous. One could make the argument that the film style is similar to Monroe’s own life and her addiction to various substances, but if that is intentional, it’s heavy-handed and sloppily done. The cuts are frenetic and disarming, and made me wonder what director Andrew Dominik was thinking. There are also a lot of shots and scenes that made me super uncomfortable. I’m sorry, call me a prude, but I didn’t need to see two scenes of abortions from inside Monroe’s vagina.
A Script That Needed Help:
As for de Armas, while she absolutely looks like Monroe, she doesn’t quite have the same enigmatic energy that Monroe was so famous for. She tries her hardest to make the most out of the script she was handed, but is sadly not able to overcome its hurdles. She never truly makes Monroe, or Norma Jean (depending on the scene) feel like a real person. I wish she was in a movie that supported her more, because I genuinely think she is a great choice to play Marilyn Monroe. Le sigh.
The movie tries to track Monroe’s whole life, from her mother trying to kill her, to her being kidnapped in the middle of the night and forcibly given an abortion. The movie focuses on the way that men and society objectified Monroe throughout her life, by continuing to objectify her and taking away any agency she had. Yet there are doubts to the legitimacy of some of these events in real life. Monroe was much more in control of her image than this film gives her credit for, and to take all of that away to just show two and a half hours of a woman essentially being run through every bad thing that could possibly happen to a woman feels irresponsible at best. The film began to feel to me like sexism-trauma-porn, not to mention the wild choice to show a fully formed fetus when she is maybe two weeks pregnant...and then to have that fetus talking to her?! I honestly felt like I was watching a movie made by someone who had never had a conversation with a woman.
Ultimately, I think this movie does more harm than good, and should go back on the shelf as a failed experiment. While it is occasionally visually appealing, I found the majority of its nearly three hour runtime to be painful and uncomfortable. While I’m all for experimentation within movies and playing with the form, there still needs to be some cohesion and tact with sensitive subjects, especially when telling the lives of actual people. This movie just felt to me like another exploitation of a woman who had already led a life of exploitation, and should be allowed to rest in peace. If that was the goal: fine, but I'd have preferred a movie that honors her tenacity and strength of character, along with her impact on Hollywood and stardom.