Where I Watched It: Netflix
Audio description Provided By: Post Haste Digital
Written By William McDonaugh
Narrated By: Kaitlyn Elizabeth
You are going to read a lot of viewpoints out there on the internet from a dozen sources about Blonde. It will be remembered as one of the most divisive film of the year. My review might contain some spoilers, but only to refer to specific content within the film.
Since Blonde was released, until my writing of this review, I’ve marinated a lot. I’ve seen reactions, and most of them have been incredibly negative, but everyone has a point. i can see why people hate this film. I had a friend watch this who turned it off at a scene where young Marilyn is forcefully drowned in a bathtub, because she almost drowned and that was triggering for her. Not to mention the fact that Marilyn is raped more than once, as well as this film having a very VERY strong stance on abortion,
What many people find controversial is the fact that the film glamorizes to some extent this portrayal of Marilyn as a thing to be had. A creation, something not real, that men want to ogle, and fondle, and take advantage of. It calls itself a fictional representation of Marilyn Monroe, but it follows as lot of the same beats that other Marilyn biopics have in the past. it deals with her struggles, it just does them in the most aggressively vicious way possible. And who is here to speak on Marilyn’s behalf? What if Blonde leads to a whole new type of biopic, where fact and fiction can be swapped in and out like disposable building blocks. Someone’s life story too boring? Add in some sex and violence. That will perk up your audience.
And believe me, Andrew Domynck, who previously missed out on critical acclaim and recognition on The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, is acutely aware that sex sells. That’s the whole purpose of Marilyn within the film itself. The NC-17, always associated with too much sex, is in itself a trap. it’s a product of it’s own making, and entices you to consume Marilyn.
Even in the film, Marilyn herself is viewed as a different person. She’s called consistently in the audio description as norma Jean, her birth name, and we see her from the beginning as a child with a destructive mother and critically absent father. Suddenly, we jump forward, Marilyn is trying to break into the business, and has one of the worst casting couch experiences. But, once Marilyn exists, even Norma can’t help but refer to her as a third person entity. like, she becomes Marilyn for the public, but she’s really just plain old Norma Jean. it’s a divide that only she can see, as the world can’t stop but wanting and desiring her on or off screen, something Bobby Cannavale’s “ex athlete” violently reminds her by calling her meat.
And i do mean ‘ex-athlete”, because they are fully aware that calling this character joe DiMaggio would result in some form of a lawsuit. So it’s jsut some generic athlete, who likes baseball, has a strong New York accent thanks to Cannavale, and likes to be called Daddy by Norma. Yet, when Marilyn is with Arthur Miller later, the film has no problem naming him outright. But we’re back to being super vague when Marilyn visits “The president”.
The funny thing is, Domynck would be baffled at why people don’t like his film, even though it’s all his dreams of being the most artistic fucking director out there that drag this movie down. Instead of attempting anything normal, he goes and colors way outside the lines, and wonders what your problem is with that. I heard he shot in a mostly unused ratio, and the film consistently changes from color to black and white. i wish we could get the audio description on the page with wild artistic interpretations, because film is still a visual art form, and often films like this lose their translation when the audio description can’t figure out how to let the viewer know any of what sighted audiences are experiencing when the choices are so intentional and abnormal.
All of that being said, Ana De Armas is a fucking revelation. I want that on a poster. i didn’t even like her as an actress in anything until recently, and even then, i wasn’t thinking “lets give this girl an Oscar”. But after seeing this film, her performance is bar none the most demanding performance of the year. Even her latina accent that slips in to her Marilyn accent is forgiven, because her range in this film is one of the most demanding of the year, if not of the last five to ten years. it’s the kind of performance that you need a counselor after, and the reason intimacy coordinators exist. It’s a shame that the Oscar’s will likely overlook her, because she’d be at the top of my ballot.
in fact, when you look at the grade I’m about to give, you need to understand that with all the problems I acknowledge about the film, the reason it might feel higher than you expected has everything to do with de Armas swinging for the fences, and smashing through this film like she was birthed of the greatest actors of the last 100 years.
This film may not tell the best story of the iconic Marilyn, but ms. De Armas, you have arrived.
Final Grade: B-