WHAT I LIKED: There's been a lot of talk about Andrew Dominik's 'Blonde,' being an inaccurate and exploitative realisation of Marilyn Monroe's life, but I've always maintained that fact is utterly irrelevant when it comes to cinema. Art's job is to reach universal *emotional* or *thematic* truths; using real-world reference points to reveal or explore things *about* reality, not revelling in specific certitudes in the way a documentary should.
When it comes to biopics, it's virtually impossible to achieve objectivity anyway, so, like most others (think 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Darkest Hour,' 'The Insider,' 'Ed Wood,') 'Blonde,' arguably bears little relationship to historical fact. Instead, what it is is a tragic and horrific portrait of how a vulnerable, troubled young woman is treated by lovers, Hollywood and the public as an object to study, scorn, admire, watch or lust after rather than care about.
Largely, that's facilitated by the fact the script develops such a disconnect between her real humanity and the way everyone else perceives her, as it paints the "Marilyn Monroe," persona as a different individual from the real Norma-Jeane. There's constant talk about how she views her public appearances - from newspapers and magazines, to films and interviews - as an entirely different, third-person character, and De Armas brilliantly seems to wear Monroe's grins as a mask.
It helps too that the story begins with the true Norma-Jeane as a young girl, and the film shows how her mother mistreated her and used lies to convince everyone - from her own daughter, to a Policeman - that she's fine, despite the fact she resents her birth for causing her father to leave. But then, cutting years later to her break as an actor, we witness everyone from moguls to production assistants capitalising on her fame and watching in objectifying awe as she breaks down in auditions and performances without the slightest care for her welfare. She's read letters of admiration and hate, men constantly study her and decide how they feel, and even the various romantic partners that the film charts initially seem to care for her, but ultimately end up exploiting or scorning her for Monroe's sexuality, or using her as a muse rather than a partner.
That's hard to watch at times, particularly because Ana De Armas' central performance is so unflinchingly vulnerable and nuanced, and because Dominik keeps his camera so close and lingers on her face for almost uncomfortable lengths of time. That's not to mention the suffocating sound design and score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis either.
But it all results in a film that says a lot about how people objectify women, particularly famous ones, and that point has arguably been proved further by how much everyone has argued that they supposedly know how inaccurate this film is from a historical perspective...
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It is hard to watch, particularly as it's a film that takes a long time to make similar points over and over, and there are certainly moments where the film contributes to the very exploitation that it's exposing too. Talking foetuses, vagina-cams and rape scenes feel horribly unnecessary whether they're about a real person or a fictional one.
VERDICT: A tragic, painful study of one character who's objectified by everyone, and another who's stuck playing her, Andrew Dominik's 'Blonde,' may be hard to watch, factually inaccurate and sometimes horribly misjudged, but it's also a film of immense nuance and truth.