"Blonde" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Marilyn Monroe is one of the biggest actresses and sex symbols in the history of Hollywood. From films like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" to the famous photo of her dress being blown up by the updraft of the New York subway grating, she is still as famous now as she was back then. However, her life was engulfed in mystery that resulted in a tragic end, which Andrew Dominik tries to cover in his 2022 Netflix Biopic, "Blonde". While Ana de Armas gives an utterly amazing performance as the bombshell blonde and the cinematography is wonderful, the movie is unfortunately a giant mess that can't separate fact from fiction, blurring the lines of what to actually believe or not.
Dominik's film, which is adapted from Joyce Carol Oates' novel by the same name, follows the life of Marilyn from her childhood to her untimely death. It documents her interactions with famous people, such as President Kennedy (Casper Phillipson), as well as her famous husbands Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) and Arthur Miller (Adrian Brody). However, like Pablo Larraín's movie "Spencer" before it, "Blonde" decides to add fictional elements and people to Marilyn's life, making her life story seem more interesting and add more to the drama on-screen.
When compared to Larraín's movie mentioned previously, this film seems more like a misguided attempt to tell the story of a famous woman's life. While "Spencer" does a great job of telling Princess Diana's psyche in the world of the royal family, this movie seems like a more misguided attempt at trying to tell Marilyn's wife. I think the reason "Spencer" does such a good job is by showing a brief segment of her life, while on vacation with the royal family, while "Blonde" tries to tell Marilyn's whole life in an almost 3-hour movie. Because of this, it clutters so many events and plot-lines into one big movie that isn't really sure what it exactly is.
With that being said, this movie is just one giant ball of depression. There simply is no scene that is happy or joyous, and it's full of shocking and disturbing imagery and scenes that can make viewers sick to their stomach. Now, there are films that can make something so dark and depressing into a very good watch, such as Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream", which is a fantastic view into the world of addiction. This movie though, just seems like it's dark and depressing for the sake of being dark and depressing. This is simply one of the hardest and most depressing/disturbing movies I have ever seen, and not in a good way at all. At times, it makes me really wonder why Dominik went that direction with it, and how he could have avoided this to make a very well-crafted film.
Dominik has famously been quoted saying that this movie serves more as an "avalanche of images and events", rather than relying on dialogue to progress the plot. This statement is both true and false when it comes to this movie. It's true in the fact that many of the scenes show an event taking place, ones that have a major impact on Marilyn's life. Then it's false in the sense that this movie does contain quite a bit of dialogue, yet it feels forced or odd at times. But the thing is, since Dominik tried to go in this direction for the film, the movie is just all over the place. He constantly jumps from one event to the next, not giving enough time for the film to elaborate on specific scenes, but also dragging out the movie longer than it needed to be. He leaves all of these questions that the viewer has unanswered, forcing the viewers to just keep going in the film while getting more lost and lost.
Now, in this gigantic mess of a movie, there are some great things about it. The first thing I want to mention is de Armas' performance, which is absolutely amazing. The entire movie is just one big panic attack, and she has great range in showing that on the screen. She also does a fabulous job of really getting into the role of the famous actress, and at times, I had a hard time believing that that was not really Marilyn on the screen. Now, that is how you know you have the perfect actress in the role.
In addition to her wonderful performance, the cinematography of the movie is hauntingly beautiful and stunning throughout the entire three-hour runtime. Take any frame of this movie and it can easily be a photograph. It really captures both the depressing nature of the movie and the glamorous life that Ms. Monroe lived. The filmmakers are able to seamlessly combine the two different emotions for the film, and it seems effortless most of the time. If anything, de Armas and Chayse Irvin should receive Oscar nominations for her performance and the cinematography, respectively.
Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with this entire film. It could have easily been a great film that tells the story of this infamous star, but falls short due to the pretentiousness of the director and the horrifyingly disturbing and depressing aspect of this movie. This will definitely be a very decisive film, and it's going to be interesting to see the impact this film has on the movie industry moving forward concerning the misogynistic views clearly on display throughout the majority of this movie. Before her untimely death, Monroe said she didn't want to be made into a joke, and I think this movie unfortunately did that in more ways than one.