Based on the book of the same name, “Blonde” is a mixture of fact and fiction about Marilyn Monroe’s public life and her personal life as Norma Jeane. I had no idea what to expect going into this one since the early screenings were very mixed, and the film was given an NC-17 rating for sexual content. That is a rare occurrence because most films don’t need to go that far to communicate their message. I was also unsure of the decision to include both true events from her life alongside fictional aspects. I thought that would leave audiences confused about who she really was. However, I went in with an open mind to see what artistic decisions called for the rating and mixing fact and fiction. After finishing the film, I was surprisingly angry at it because the writer and director Andrew Dominik’s portrayal of Monroe was disgusting and tone-deaf.
Before I get into why I strongly dislike many aspects of “Blonde,” there are still some positives. First, it is a gorgeous-looking film, with great cinematography and many of the segments filmed in black and white. It switches back and forth from black and white to color, which I thought was a pointless decision and a little jarring. The pacing is also surprisingly strong for a nearly 170-minute film, and it absolutely flies by as very few of the scenes are boring, albeit some are unnecessary and don’t further the story.
Unfortunately, those are all of the positives I came away with. Easily my biggest issue with the film, to the point of utter frustration, is the fact that there is no cohesion in the story and no character development. Very few scenes feel like they flow together, but they are forced in one after the other. It makes for a frustrating watch since there is no continuation because there isn’t a focused story. The film is being promoted as an inner look at Monroe’s life and how she felt about her fame, but it’s explored in such a shallow fashion that it borders on disrespect to the late great actress.
The most disrespectful part of “Blonde,” however, is that they only showed the awful aspects of Monroe’s life. The entire runtime feels like the film is beating you with sadness, leaving a lasting impression of exploitation and trying to profit off her tragedies. It seems there was a vague attempt to peek behind the curtains of her personal life. Still, it fails miserably because there’s no progression or regression of the character, leaving it impossible to compare her personal and private life. Given the fact that there are parts of the film that are fictionalized, it makes it even more difficult to feel a true connection to Monroe.
Without that connection and with all of the scenes being forced together with little to no cohesion, I felt like I learned absolutely nothing about Monroe beside her having a terrible life. Dominik does nothing to use those moments to make her a stronger and more compelling character when it should be so easy. While most of the blame should absolutely be on Dominik, I don’t think Ana de Armas (Marilyn Monroe) should get away with no blame either. I believe she is the most overrated actress working right now and her performance in “Blonde” only further proves that. The performance had no charisma, and it felt incredibly one-dimensional and so over the top that I couldn’t take it seriously.
I wanted to like this film so badly, as I thought an intimate look at Norma Jeane would be very insightful, but instead, we got a disgusting and misogynistic view of Marilyn Monroe to try to profit off of her. The beautiful technical aspects of the film can only do so much, and the many dropped storylines, jumping from parts of her life to the next, and just overall terrible screenplay make for an absolute mess of a film. It’s been called difficult to watch because of the content, and while there are certain parts like that, I found it more difficult because of the disrespect and carelessness given to Monroe.