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BLONDE (2022)

Release Date: 09/28/22 [Netflix]

Genre: Biography/Drama/Romance

Studio: Netflix

"A fictionalized chronicle of the inner life of Marilyn Monroe."


People have a fascination with celebrities' lives and personal struggles, and Hollywood does not differ from this. Biographical films or films based on actual events, especially ones that involve the wondrous Tinseltown, are a dime a dozen. Still, when one about one of the biggest cultural icons comes along it garners the utmost attention from audiences and the entertainment industry. Marilyn Monroe is about as iconic as it gets and although her story has been told in various ways before, it's never been in such raw form as experienced in Blonde.


Throughout the '50s and into the early '60s Monroe took Hollywood and the world by storm as Hollywood's sex symbol. Despite being a talented actress, this was unfortunately what she was labeled as and deduced to by most of the world. The character she essentially was made to be was that of Marilyn Monroe, the actress, and who she was believed to be in everyday life. Although her stage name was Marilyn Monroe, off the screen she was simply Norma Jeane. A woman who had anything but a stable, healthy childhood. Blonde establishes this with its opening scene, as young Norma Jeane (Lily Fisher) and her mother (Juliana Nicholson), explain that a portrait on their apartment wall is of her father. Her mother quickly warns her that she mustn't tell anyone anything about her father. It's a scene that quickly makes apparent that not all is right in Normas’ household, as the events shortly following this further validate. Blonde briefly explores Norma’s childhood, while the remainder of the movie meticulously shines a blinding light on the actress's professional and personal life during her climb to fame.


The luxurious, carefree, and dreamy life, the public assumed Marilyn led was almost as fictitious as any of the characters she played on screen. Dominik’s script and direction confront this misconception, by using the dreamy perspective as a lens, whilst capturing the distressing nature of the incidents it presents. Exposing the taxing, abusive, and neglectful experiences in such a stark and graphic manner that confines its audience to witness. People, no doubt, have and will continue to take issue with the film’s conduct toward its on-screen depictions of rape and physical abuse instances. When a film includes scenes involving acts of sexual and physical abuse, its inclusion must be justified. Blonde's justification is reliant on its narrative and its candid approach to its storytelling and also points a critical finger at the public's fetishization of the blonde star. While the script does fall prey to sensationalism at moments, it's not to service any sort of elaborate sex appeal. Even biographical movies that aim to be as factually accurate as possible succumb to embellishments for dramatic purposes. Whether Blonde’s intentions regarding this succeed or not is, like all film criticism, a matter of opinion. Regardless, its result is intense, raw, and unapologetic.


A crucial benefit Blonde is given is its lead actor Ana de Armas. There are many layers of the Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jeane persona and person to display, and de Armas proves she came to the role prepared. Delivering an exceptional performance that comes across as being deeply personal to her, and will certainly be an awards contender when the time comes. Her ability to weave in and out of the persona of Marilyn Monroe and into Norma Jeane is impressive, yet it's the emotionally stripped-down demeanor within this portrayal that grips and shakes the viewer throughout its 166-minute running time. Although de Armas is the focal performance throughout, she is surrounded by a great cast of actors in Julianne Nicholson, Toby Huss, Bobby Cannavale, Adrien Brody, and Garret Dillahunt. With each of them turning in terrific performances that well utilize the limited amount of time on screen.

Blonde struts fluently between several periods in its subject's life with scenes fluidly shifting from black-and-white into color. This choice by writer, editor, and director Andrew Dominik is incredible and compliments the beautiful photography by cinematographer Chayse Irvin. Blonde's interpretation of Monroe's life, state of mind, and inner struggles seep into the film's aesthetic like a visual manifestation of Monroe's emotions. Dominik's frequent collaborators Nick Cave and Warren Ellis provide a striking score that imbues fantastical and haunting sounds. One of the best characteristics of Dominik's biographical film is its confidence and commitment to its methodology. Blonde isn't afraid to disclose the harsh reality of its subject Marilyn Monroe. Its warts and all approach in being ugly yet beautiful, mesmerizing but brutal, and deliberately discomforting to watch, and that's its point. Andrew Dominiks' latest film serves as a reminder of his talents, delivering one of his most audacious and best films yet. It's also one of the gutsiest cinematic experiences so far this year.

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