Almost every single Marylin Monroe movie after her death, with some rare exceptions, has been fake and/or exploitive to some degree: “Blonde” is almost no different in those regards but in many instances, it’s even worse.
Compared to other biopics, Blonde actually tries to go a different direction, constantly toying with it’s own structure and the tone much to the detriment of everything else it’s supposed to work in conjunction with. Outside of following the typical biopic blueprint of showcasing incomplete phases of their life like a Wikipedia article, the film is based on an book that is obviously fictionalized (wasn’t advertised as such because why would they). Andrew Dominik further muddies the water by pulling a Baz Luhrmann with his direction, making it as pretentious as possible while splattering “glitter” everywhere; imagine how the lens of this story would’ve altered drastically if they had a women director or writer behind this.
Ana de Armas can do NOTHING to salvage this movie, heart-shattering performance nonetheless. If anything, I felt horrified that she agreed to do this.
The languorous arthouse style of the cinematography is crippled by repeated switches of the aspect ratio, never mind the swapping color palette and awkward editing jammed in-between. It indulges in every dumb-blonde stereotype imaginable and rips away Marilyn’s own agency as her own person while dragging every single disconnected scene out at a teeth-grindingly slow pace with pedestrian dialogue and a runtime that moves at molasses, production design is either really scarce or feels practically invisible just like the rest of the characters, unbalanced sound design is nauseating, and the glaring falsities it presents are enough to fill a presentation on its own.
The movie is obviously designed to be as uncomfortable as possible with it’s rare NC-17 rating and a part of me gets it: you can’t tell the story of Norma Jeane WITHOUT emphasizing her exploitation and abuse throughout her life, her story unfortunately wouldn’t feel meaningful without it……but therein lies the problem: explicit content has to serve a purpose beyond just regurgitating shock value and that’s literally ALL THAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT. With no catharsis attached to the subject at hand, all that’s left is a mean-spirited circus with pretentious on-the-nose symbolism that constantly gaslights Monroe every opportunity it gets.
I don’t care if all this was supposed to be the point: it glamorizes and makes the display of sexual and physical violence palatable by undermining and overshadowing one person’s very real pain and that’s never ok. All aspects of the visual aesthetic are literal smoke and mirrors here and the final result is somehow monotone and infuriating all at once.
Sure, there’s a nice starkness to the black and white color palette, the minimalist soundtrack is fine and again, the languorous surreal-ness to the cinematography actually puts Elvis’s camerawork to shame in some areas but it’s yet another movie that revels in abusing and exploiting a victim’s hell all over again while pretending to condemn it for the sake of obtaining the smallest of brownie points.
Marilyn Monroe has always been a tragic figure in Hollywood history; this movie continues to not only victimize her struggles but even without it, the film is nothing less than trenchant and insipid; too long, too misogynistic, too fetishized, and too damn proud of luxuriating in Marilyn's misery as opposed to condemning the parties who precipitated it.
It takes a special kind of effort, dedication and spite to systematically ruin somebody’s life even beyond the grave REPEATEDLY for decades and keep getting away with it. Hollywood, whatever the hell you are doing, please I am BEGGING you for the love of god, LEAVE MARILYN MONROE ALONE.