Blonde (2022) has become a heavily criticised film among contemporary admirers of Marilyn Monroe, and not without reason. Hitting number one on Netflix in Ireland, it is interesting to see how this film held up to expectations for its long-awaited release. Taking only 45 days to film after ten years of consideration, Andrew Dominik has successfully created a talking point with Ana de Armas at the centre of it all.
The novel Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates is the basis for the eponymous movie as directed by Andrew Dominik. What’s made clear from the beginning is that this is a movie first, leaning into fictional storytelling and not intended as a documentary of Marilyn’s life.
The film is undoubtedly aesthetically pleasing. It pairs de Armas’ skilful portrayal of the golden-era Hollywood starlet with live-action recreations of some of the most famous pictures of Monroe throughout her life. The contrast between the black-and-white and colour moments on-screen creates an effective ambiance, where the lines are blurred between what is real and what is fantasy.
The brief shooting period is somewhat shown in the emphasis of some slightly gaudy post-production elements such as Niagara Falls in the background of a threesome, the morphing faces of a crowd of men at the shooting of The Seven Year Itch and a talking fetus in Marilyn’s womb.
Marilyn is seen to call her husbands “daddy” throughout the film, and her father’s absence in her life is made a focal point of the film. Her mother is hospitalised for psychological issues, leaving Norma Jeane with no role models present in her life, growing up in an orphanage and landing her first well-paying job in modelling for photographers.
There are many ways that Blonde serves to offend the memory of Marilyn Monroe – or Norma Jeane, as she was known before adopting the celebrity persona that would follow her through stardom and to her untimely end. It also doesn’t serve much of an originally creative element in that it doesn’t portray Monroe in any novel way that hasn’t been seen before. No great effort is made to change the already existing narrative of the hypersexualised bombshell other than to highlight her alleged “daddy issues”.
What might have humanised her more as a person here would be recognition of her intellect, heart and talent. Both artistic and entrepreneurial, she formed her own company away from the restrictive contracts that previously way underpaid her work relative to her co-stars and which subsequently gave her creative freedom in filmmaking. A supporter of the civil rights movement and a trailblazing thespian, she showed great promise before her early death.