'Blonde' Is a curious - AND Foggy - Fictional Biopic
By Sal LoCicero | October 4, 2022
Based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, with the same name, ‘Blonde’ is a fictional biopic focused on Marilyn Monroe. Norma Jeane (Ana De Armas) is a young Hollywood model, known only to the public as Marilyn Monroe, who struggles with the toxicness of both her fame and personal life. It all starts with Norma as a child, abused by her sick mother and her obsession with Norma's father who left the two of them. As Norma becomes an adult, working as a model for photos and magazines, things get increasingly more complicated with the men that enter her life.
When it was first announced that a story like this was going to be made into an NC-17 feature film, it caused skepticism. The idea of turning a story about a true life figure into a fictionalized chronicle seemed both unnecessary and absurd. However, if you look at Pablo Larrain’s 2021 film ‘Spencer’, the thought of a fictionalized biopic has started off very well.
‘Blonde’ is a technical wonder, it shares the same psychological drama of ‘Spencer’, and some of the obscure surrealism of ‘Enter The Void’. Right from the beginning, Andrew Dominik’s directing shows you exactly what type of film this is going to be. The whole atmosphere in the beginning feels like a dream, a bad one. After the first act, we jump right into Marliyn Monroe’s world, where she is at the top of her fame. The public devours her, and men are aroused by her body. She is both misunderstood and is consistently taken advantage of. There is a lot that is covered in the second act, but due to how most of it is executed, the story becomes even harder to wrap your head around.
While her accent does slip at times, Ana De Armas is still the bright shining star of this 2 hour and 46 minute feature. She is wonderful as Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe. Composers Nick Cave & Warren Ellis add an emotional impact to her complex character.
The cinematography is questionable, especially with the consistent shifting of various aspect ratios. Sometimes the changes work to expand on the psychological surrealism (that plays entirely in the third act), other times it’s gratuitous.
The main complaint with ‘Blonde’ is that it struggles to decide on what exactly it wants to tackle about Monroe. Take ‘Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood’, ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Mother!’, blend all three films together and this is what you get as the end result. It’s hard not to respect the effort put into creating this thought provoking work, but once the credits roll, you can’t help but wonder what the whole point was behind this fictional tale. The last act is dizzying to watch, and it may confuse - or upset - audiences.
As for its controversial rating, this is not as severely graphic as the rating system implies, some of its harsh sequences - although they’re unpleasant - are not nearly as explicit and vile as many other R-rated features. Ana De Armas may receive some recognition for her performance, but other than Armas, ‘Blonde’ comes off as less of a feature film and more like an experimental project.
What are your thoughts?