Starring: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel and Evan Williams
Director: Andrew Dominik
As a woman, it’s hard to watch a film about how cruel people in the industry can be to an actress that endured so much abuse and pain even before arriving in Hollywood. They say every darkness has a light, and Blonde needed more light to make the beautiful and talented Marilyn Monroe (Ana de Armas) seem more than just a damaged product. As stunning as the film looks, they should have taken a different approach in telling Monroe’s story. This tragic drama is no doubt a hard watch, but de Armas' radiating performance makes it difficult to look away from.
Despite a personal fascination with the era, many beautifully shot scenes, and a knockout performance from Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, Blonde plays more like a fever dream of nightmarish snapshots than it does a linear narrative. Frankly, it’s extremely self-indulgent, especially at almost three hours of exceedingly stylistic flourishes. It’s like director Andrew Dominik was constantly screaming “we aren’t making a movie! WE ARE MAKING ART!” while on set. It’s simply not enjoyable, but if you want to watch a mostly fictionalized biopic about Marilyn’s mentality, not Marilyn the person, done in the style of Requiem for a Dream, be my guest.
Blonde is a mixed bag. It employs beautiful filmmaking techniques to showcase Ana de Armas in a heartbreakingly captivating performance. That being said, it is weirdly exploitative, often forcing de Armas to demean herself for no real reason. It also paints a wildly inaccurate portrait of Marilyn Monroe as a mentally ill woman who shouldn’t have been in show business instead of the truth - that she was a massive star abused by her handlers. Overall, Blonde misses its own point, is far too long, has little rewatch value, and features a final half hour that almost put me to sleep.
Ana de Armas may walk away largely unscathed, as does Adrien Brody, but nearly every other element of Blonde stacks up to an oft-upsetting, bizarre mess of a film. Marilyn Monroe (de Armas) hardly gets to be a character, as the film uses her simply as a trauma vessel, forcing the audience to watch her suffer for no discernable purpose other than acute discomfort. Each “daring” thing director Andrew Dominik attempts to do seems only to work against itself, and the first half is genuinely awful to sit through. This is one of the biggest misfires of the year.