"Don't you see, Norma Jean, the future is in the palm of your hands."
"Blonde" is the newest effort by Netflix to bring the actor Marilyn Monroe back to life. Having passed away in 1962 at the age of 36, Monroe is one of the most well-documented celebrities in movie history, with iconic films and an even more legendary personal life that great dramas have tried to replicate for decades. Based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, "Blonde" is a fictional biography of the blonde bombshell that blends actual events and fabricated circumstances to embellish a life already traumatic enough.
Ana de Armas stars as Norma Jean Mortenson, later dubbed Marilyn Monroe, as she traverses life with three failed marriages, miscarriages, and a tumultuous career in Hollywood. The film industry's first true sex pot, Monroe became a disaster to work with in her later years due to unresolved family issues, problems with drugs, and difficulties surrounding never producing a family of her own. Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale round out the cast of "Blonde" as Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, respectively, embodying the men who chose to marry a woman so traumatized by her own life.
But make no mistake about it, "Blonde" is fictional. There are glimpses of truth to some of Monroe's actual problems, as the film details the struggles she had to overcome being raised by a mother who eventually became institutionalized. Her relationships outside her marriages take center stage in this saga, even if many of them are embellished. Much of this has to do with affairs with the President of the United States and a nonexistent pen pal relationship she had with her birth father. The film is a glossy picture on the outside, attempting to showcase an actor's life as she tries to defend her position within the filmmaking community, and it misses the mark every chance that it is given.
At close to three hours of runtime, "Blonde" gives no more detail to the real-life woman behind the movie star than Michelle Williams' turn in "My Week With Marilyn." The film is often an exaggerated fantasy epic of messy proportions, distastefully depicting a fictional look at a well-studied film icon. Many situations shown actually happened during the making of classic films like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "Some Like It Hot," while others are completely and utterly absurd, including rape scenes with well-known studio executives, threesomes that cannot be factually backed up by research, and letters written by Monroe's father outlining his disdain for her movies. When we witness Marilyn Monroe's complicated relationship with John F. Kennedy, Monroe becomes a hooker to him, performing fellatio on the 35th President of the United States while de Armas narrates in the background.
Unfortunately for everyone portrayed in "Blonde," few people are left on this Earth to defend these portrayals, including Monroe herself. Ana de Armas tries her best to convey Monroe's real trauma and desire to be taken seriously as an actor, primarily when she enrolls in acting school despite a prevalent career as a pin-up model and film star. However, her multitude of nude scenes and depictions of rape become extremely distracting in this tall tale. Director Andrew Dominik's use of dramatic jumps in time, blending of color and black-and-white sequences, and a deranged screenplay at the heart of it all makes "Blonde" less of a biopic and more of a self-indulgent fable.
"Blonde" is rated NC-17 and releasing on Netflix on September 28th.
Ticket Rating: 🎟1/2