Before watching Andrew Dominik’s Marilyn Monroe movie starring Ana De Armas based on the book by Joyce Carol Oates, it is important to make people aware that the book and thusly the movie is not based on factual events, but more a fictionalized telling of Monroe’s life. I’m not sure knowing this fact would make the movie any more palatable than it is, because the movie is a giant cluster of yikes and some incredibly questionable performances, but there is a lot of mess to unpack with the near 3 hour movie and it doesn’t start nor end with the hot mess of performances throughout Blonde.
The movie focuses on Marilyn aka Norma Jeane on her stratospheric rise to fame, that is met with all the tribulations that were known to everyone with a dash of conspiracy theories thrown within. Throughout the movie we see Marilyn try to get to stardom, meeting a plethora of characters along the way consisting of Joe DiMaggio played by Bobby Cannavale, Arthur Miller played by Adrien Brody, and John F Kennedy played by Caspar Phillipson. Throughout the film, there are different moments that made Marilyn famous and some moments that were not as common knowledge, and a conspiracy theory that she was carrying and forced to abort JFKs child.
What works for Blonde is the performances from the supporting cast. Bobby Cannavale is absolutely sublime as DiMaggio and brings forth a performance worthy of attention after about 55 minutes without one. Julianne Nicholson playing Gladys, Norma’s mother is incredible as well delivering a performance with heart and nuance of a mother clearly at her breaking point and broken in more ways than can be expressed. Adrien Brody is also fantastic as Arthur Miller and helps carry the movie while he is present in scenes. However, Ana De Armas who has proven on more than one occasion she can actually act manages to completely miss the mark and butchers her portrayal of Marilyn. It appears that she was trying to do an impression of Monroe based solely on her film roles and not any interviews or anything that showed who the person behind the blonde hair truly was.
Moreover, the script and direction from Andrew Dominik is baffling, and the rumours around the purgatory the movie was facing doesn’t appear to be as over exaggerated as it was assumed to be. Andrew decides to take leaps and bounds of creative liberty, assuming its staying true to the source material at least, and creating a very rare instance of a NC-17 rating for a film, especially one that lands with a streamer. There is so many choices that are questionable, and uncomfortable to watch throughout Blonde that further goes to Dominik’s choices behind his script and direction. Blonde is a mess of a feature film, filled with a bamboozling performance and some direction that is truly unsettling and uncomfortable to watch.