Star Cast: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Xavier Samuel, Evan Willians, Caspar Phillipson & ensemble.
Director: Andrew Dominik
What’s Good: It is the seduction by cinematic techniques and the chaos that Ana de Armas embodies. Sheer dedication, ultimate results.
What’s Bad: It sets out to tell a fictional account of how cruel life might have been for the phenomenon of a human, but only details her exploitation without giving her any authority over herself.
Loo Break: It’s a long, uncomfortable & unsettling watch, you will need one. Pause and go.
Watch or Not?: Watch it for the sheer filmmaking technique that is chaotic but also pretty streamlined. It must be a march in the wrong direction, but that doesn’t take away the beauty of it.
Language: English (with subtitles).
Available On: Netflix
Runtime: 166 Minutes
Marilyn Monroe is a mystery and one that is yet to be solved even many decades after her death due to unforeseen circumstances. Blonde, a self-given taunt rather than a title, explores her personal life and the destiny that used her like a pawn to pass her from toxic man to another until she went ‘mad’ according to society’s standards.
Blonde Movie Review: Script Analysis
Somewhere near the midpoint, a group of women asks Marilyn whether her hair is real or not and the lady who a few minutes ago called herself a blonde, says no, and the group starts laughing at her, making her uncomfortable. For a star who was a supernova, the personal conflict was always to fit in. A woman pushed to the margin and pressed there so much by life that she wanted to come to the center even when she knew she was being exploited.
Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ arguably famous imagination of how he’ll have broken on Monroe, Blonde written for the screen by Andrew Dominik, is a deep dive into the head of a girl who has only seen the worse in life and it only mattered to her of what degree after a point. The story begins from a scene where a little girl is celebrating her birthday 10 minutes before she is about to get that she an unwanted child, her mother is now trying to kill her, and the next she knows she is an orphan. “I am not an Orphan, my daddy promised he will come,” says Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe’s real name).
The beginning of Dominik’s screenplay is a knock of the doom and it only continues to intensify. While he scales the rise of a Hollywood superstar, at the core of it he continues to highlight a little girl who is in constant search of her ‘daddy’. A faceless man who once promised her he would come, so she tries to find him in every man who shows her some affection regardless of the relationship and ends up getting exploited against her will but the hope that this one might be her redemption.
Andrew shapes Blonde in two different sections. Where he tries to show how the world hypersexualized the woman who was a little girl at heart, he also ends up exploiting her himself in his writing by never giving her the right to her body and thoughts. Let’s talk about the former first. Here was a girl who wanted to be famous, but only saw her a** and that ended up making her the object of desire. The ripple effect only added more men to the list and everyone only wanted to see what was covered. In a very important scene where Monroe is shooting for the most iconic skirt flying moment from The Seven Year Itch (1955). He captures her from all possible angles and the reactions of them surrounding her, to show you what humiliation was the cost of a legendary poster.
But while he does this moving things to acknowledge the mental pain inflicted on the short-lived star he also ends up inflicting more on her cinematic version. Apart from the only humane conversations she has with her make up artist Whitey, there is not a single time you meet Marilyn minus the madness around her. There is no normal human, but a chaotically stress lady who just keeps running. Add to it she never really has any opinion even when she is alone. Yes, she shouts and storms out but only to be called ‘mad’. For a woman who made so far in just 36 years (her age when she passed away), there must have been moments she demanded power.
Add to it the dramatization of her pregnancy and multiple abortions where she is either forced, or has to do it due to sad reasons. In a way the movie blames her for the choice. Of course the conversation around the right over one’s body wasn’t as intensified as now, but the scene where her foetus talks to her, or the doctor performs the abortion and the camera gives a see through from her v*ginal opening, are supremely unnecessary and only putt you off rather than adding up to the story.
Why does a woman have to be mad to be heard? There is no clarity if it is used as a metaphor, a fact, or just because it was in the book. But yes, there are brave moments, that if The President (allegedly John F Kennedy) , or Cass Chaplin and their threesome, or him calling out the pain of being born to a prolific father. It is all alarming and very meta, but also rushed.
Blonde Movie Review: Star Performance
Ana de Armas is a force of nature and nothing can stop that woman from achieving perfection everytime she is dedicated to a role. Reportedly it was a 9-month journey to master Marilyn’s accent and the actor does a fabulous job in embodying the cult figure. There is a thin line in a biopic around which one acts and mimics, the latter is where the actor doesn’t even enter once in the entire runtime. She is in every single frame of the movie, the vulnerability and the chaos, nothing overshadows the prolific performance.
It is Xavier Samuel As Cass Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin’s son who impresses in a short but moving performance. While there is rage, there is also fuel. It could be a wrong fuel but not for him and the actor is convinced to play this part. Rest everyone does an amazing job and even Adrein Brody is here spreading his charm.
Blonde Movie Review: Direction, Music
I have used the world chaos So many times in the review that I am afraid I won’t get to use to again for months. Andrew Dominik finds his soul in the constant mess that Marilyn Monroe is put through and captures her through that. Imagine Spencer but even darker and faster. The screenplay is linear but scattered all around at the same time. The cuts are abrupt, shots are non uniform and there is no one line that is being followed. But that works in adding the chaotic nature to the product.
DOP Chayes Irvin’s job here is to shoot piece of a jigsaw puzzle and then later bead them in a lace that makes sense and creates a story. Because smooth transitions are not something they use here. Maybe to create the old times vibe or just to add to the disturbance the movie tries to create. But it all works. The technique is fresh and definitely worth to use for more stories.
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ music does the job it sets out to. The opening piece when Norma Jean is introduced till the point her mother tries to kill her is haunting. But there is no one uniform approach. For example, Jonny Greenwood with Spencer, created a crescendo that got synonymous with the movie and the character, that is missing here.
Blonde Movie Review: The Last Word
Blonde is a mixture of many good things and some non-ignorable problems. Ana de Armas is a Goddess of her talent and so is the technique but that doesn’t mean one would give side eye to the rest.
Blonde releases on 28 September, 2022.
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Want some more recommendations? Read our Thirteen Lives Movie Review here.