“Blonde,” Andrew Dominik’s film about Marilyn Monroe, is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel. The movie does an excellent job of inviting its audience to experience who the subject really was from the inside out. For most of its 2 hours and 46 minutes, it operates on this level. It is a hushed and floating psychodramatic klieg-light fantasia, shot in color and black-and-white that presents a fusion of reality and fiction; however, most if it’s content actually comes from real events.
“Blonde,” gives us a look into Monroe’s tragic childhood, key scenes of her most popular movies, and how she dazzled Hollywood with her performance at premieres (where the red-carpet flashbulbs sounded like guns to her). We see Marilyn behind the scenes, turning the flirtatious pizazz on and off as needed. However, we also catch a glimpse of what it was really like for her; surrounded by drugs, hateful gossip about herself, unfair studio contracts– always under immense pressure. And finally watch as she melts into pregnancy only to lose one baby after another
Through this novel, we listen in on her relationships with men (Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, JFK) who quickly turn from dreamy honeymoons to nightmarish breakups for Marilyn.
“Blonde” is not entirely accurate (as most biopics are). Some aspects of the movie are not accurate, but for the most part, it sticks to Marilyn’s literal and spiritual journey.
The film argues that Marilyn was one of the best movie stars not just because she was famous, but because she truly had artistic talent. However, most of the action in the film happens when she is not in front of the camera. “Blonde” focuses on the enigma we now consider when we think of Marilyn Monroe: Who was she, exactly, as a person and a human being? Why did her life take a downward trajectory that became inevitable in hindsight?
Because it’s based on a performance, by Ana de Armas, of breathtaking radiance and imagination and candor and heartbreak, the film moves us much closer to Marilyn than “Elvis” did to Elvis. It’s a nice performance with a raw scream hidden within.
De Armas has to conceive of and develop every aspect of Monroe’s exquisite surface, and she does so — the huge eyes that burst open with adoration, the sunburst grin, the breathy voice like spun sugar that sounded like a grown woman pretending to be a little girl who mocked, with a glint of affection, her own innocence theater.
There will never be another Monroe, but with de Armas’ voice being her most distinctive feature, she nails it to an exceptional degree. She delivers nothing less than what we came for in “Blonde,” She becomes Marilyn Monroe.
The endlessly discussed Cuban Accent Question: I would hardly say that de Armas, who is a native of Cuba, plays Marilyn with a Cuban accent. But there are moments, beneath her pitch-perfect impersonation of the Monroe baby-doll-lolling-on cashmere sound, when you hear the flicker or echo of a Cuban inflection. It’s similar to how actors like Gary Oldman or Anthony Hopkins will let a tinge their English or Welsh elocution show in their performances as Americans. No one makes a big deal of it And it’s not a big deal here, since de Armas comes across as Marilyn from the bottom up, with a conviction that is melancholy and compelling.
Onscreen, Marilyn Monroe is the epitome of beauty and sex appeal. People were, and still are mesmerized by her onscreen presence. In “Blonde” we see a different side to Marilyn- one that is more vulnerable and sad. This sadness is ever present in the film, even in scenes where she appears happy.
In “Blonde,” we understand something that’s often said about Marilyn but seldom comprehended: that the greatest character she ever created was…Marilyn Monroe.
It’s true Though she was no Vivien Leigh, she was still a superb actress.
On a movie set or the Actors’ Studio, Monroe didn’t have formal “technique.” But that’s because her technique—her Method—already happened through her creation of Marilyn.
What “Blonde” exposes is the tragic contradiction of it: that in front of her audience or for her various “daddies,” the Marilyn personality was as sweet and delicious as a sundae onscreen, but offscreen, in its delicately melting, detained quality, it signified trauma. The story of “Blonde” is about a woman who was damaged during her childhood and became a figure that men constantly teased. She coped with this by refusing to grow up herself.
The film begins with a sequence that captures Monroe’s youth, including his fear and hatred. It’s 1933, in Los Angeles. Seven-year-old Norma Jeane Baker is played by the delightful Lily Fisher. As forNorma’s mother, sheis a schizophrenic harridan with rage demonstrations of child abuse .
He doesn’t want the audience to suffocate in this scenario, so he gives us only enough of it, culminating in Marilyn’s tear-stained arrival at an orphanage, to indicate all we need to know about how she constructed her emptiness.
The film then abruptly cuts to a Marilyn Monroe montage set to “Everybody Needs a Da Da Daddy,” the sobering confession torch song she performed in “Ladies of the Chorus,” and transports us back to 1950. This is when Marilyn is auditioning for the role she got in “All About Eve.” Her audition comprises reading from the script in Darryl Zanuck’s office until Zanuck, head of Fox, comes up behind her without warning, forces her down, and violates her sexually from behind.
The episode’s conclusion also serves as a significant moment, since it depicts what happens when we’re given the chance to understand. The casting couch isn’t new, but the drama in this scene is in seeing Marilyn’s particular handling of Hollywood’s toxicity and sugar-daddy culture.
She’s so consumed by her missing father, with such a cavernous hole in her heart, that she can view the most repellant and exploitative sex encounter as an evil kind of “acceptance.”
She’s also operating the sole system in Hollywood, which is why she has so much power. She’s not into pain; she’s using these men for her own gain. She’s a woman who is both healthy and erotic, and she enjoys being naked.
This is evident in the film’s initial extended episode, which is also its most problematic. At an L.A Marilyn enters an empty room where she is greeted by the flirtatious advances of two young men.
The first one (Xavier Samuel) is the son of Charlie Chaplin, and the other (Garret Dillahunt) is the son of Edward G. Robinson The movie revolves around the lives of three parties-prone Hollywood party boys, which is how I came up with the idea for it. They’re dissolute Hollywood party lads, and for a time, Marilyn and they become a walking ménage à trois – which is surprising because it implies something many people today don’t seem to grasp: that celebrities have always led far wilder existences than even tabloid gossip reports allow.
Monroe did, in fact, date Charlie Chaplin Jr., and this pretend sequence serves as an approximation of her unpretentious enjoyment (she’s not using her connection with these two for leverage). Why, though, did Dominik insist on filming the two look-alike playboys as though they were contemporary porn stars who act like incestuous siblings? It’s far too odd. And it jars.
When Marilyn meets Joe DiMaggio (a well-cast Bobby Cannavale), who is the picture of sweet chivalry, and begins to date him, she falls into her pattern. “Blonde” finds its stride when Marilyn encounters Joe diMaggio (a well-cast Bobby Cannavale), who is on a pedestal in her eyes until she falls off it, at which point he transforms into a monster.
The plots of “Killing Them Softly” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” which were directed by Dominik, are set in lavish long sequences that unfold in real time, allowing us to enter Marilyn’s world.
We’re observing her, just as the world is The DiMaggio soap opera is well-known, down to Joe’s anger over being the subject of everyone’s leering eyes while filming the swirling-white-dress-and-subway-grate sequence in “The Seven Year Itch” (in this instance, the event is preceded by a blackmail attempt based on photographs of Marilyn that are even raunchier).
Dominik’s clever staging reveals that Marilyn is quite detached from DiMaggio and life in general, long beforeDiMaggio says he can’t handle being married to a sex symbol.
His relatives come to visit, and she doesn’t know how to hold a regular conversation with them.
It’s possible that you’d label it as being bashful, but it’s actually something else — a personality condition that confines Marilyn, despite her warmth and charm, into a bubble of self-involved solipsism.
The reason we can believe she reads books, even though it’s a running joke that no one does, is because the Marilyn we see would make more sense as a bookworm than she would as a companion.
Although she is typically described as beautiful and intelligent by those who know her, she remains emotionally immature.
In a different way, her connection with Arthur Miller comes to an end. Adrien Brody plays him with the perfect degree of Brooklyn uncertainty, and while he’s polite to Marilyn on the surface, he lies to her about using her in his work (which is precisely what happened), and after she gets pregnant, there’s a terrible sequence on the beach where she trips and miscarries.
The possible key factor in Marilyn Monroe’s downfall was her persistent inability to become a mother, which “Blonde” addresses through a should-be fictional but disturbingly resonant scene.
It is “possibly” reflective of what occurred in Hollywood during the ’40s and ’50s because a movie studio coerces her into getting an abortion. Even though Dominik stage it like it’s out of a horror film, it mirrors reality quite well.
This happened all the time Marilyn could have been the victim (though we don’t know for sure).
It’s while her connection to Miller is crumbling that Marilyn herself, for the first time, begins to fall apart. On the set of “Some Like It Hot,” she erupts in a volcanic fury at the line “She’s just like Jell-O on springs,” feeling the primal-gaze insult of it, but it’s no different than previous insults written about her. What has changed is that it is now late 1950s, Marilyn has been a star for 10 years, and she is waking up to the full trap of what she and other women have endured.
The film then fast forward to 1962, when she is having an affair with John F. Kennedy. He treats her as his whore — as a utensil I wish the scene had been more complex.
Marilyn and JFK were sexually involved as early as the 1950s, which brings a new level of depth to their companionship. Had we been able to see even a glimpse of that history, it might have made “Blonde” even more arresting.
After the sex has ended, the movie loses its steam. The last hour proceeds step by step to Marilyn’s death by a drug overdose, and there is a sense of drowsiness about it. Dominik may have blown an opportunity by not addressing how her death was covered up, as the government and press collaborated to conceal her encounters with both Kennedy brothers in this regard, Marilyn died as she’d lived: as a victim/product of the image culture.
Of course, the most beautiful of those photographs was Marilyn herself. She was not a real blonde. She was not (or not quite) the heavenly voluptuous pinup cuddlebug on screen. “Blonde,” however, illuminates how the myth of Marilyn Monroe grew out of her innermost being — a trauma so intense that she transformed herself into the 20th century’s greatest image of female power and beauty. The film leaves us wondering why, where the world saw a goddess, she only saw no there there.
Timothy is a senior writer based in Atlanta, specializing in celebrity-related news. She is always ready to cover trending TV stories with an unbiased perspective and a pinch of gossip.