The Stream: Too long, too repetitive, and deliberately enigmatic.
The Big Screen: Ana de Armas gives a committed performance.
The Final Bill: A humorless tale of a tortured soul that doesn’t capture the magic of Marilyn Monroe.– Trip Fontaine
Director: Andrew Dominik
Writers: Andrew Dominik based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates
Stars: Ana de Armas, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Adrien Brody
Genre: Drama, Biography
Rating: NC-17 for some sexual content
Runtime: 2 hours 40 minutes
Production Companies: Plan B Entertainment
Platform: Netflix and in select theaters September 28, 2022
Hey, Streamers! If it feels like there’s not much to see at the theaters this weekend, how about you check out what’s available on your convenient streaming services. I took a few days – yes, I said a few days – this week to watch a new release on Netflix, Blonde. I know you’ve heard rumblings about this NC-17 pseudo-biopic about the iconic film star, Marilyn Monroe, starring up-and-coming, hot commodity, Ana de Armas. It’s an intriguing mix, but it’s nearly 3-hours long. Yipes! Here’s how it went for me.
Blonde is a film directed by Andrew Dominik with a screenplay written by Dominik based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s a fictionalized account of the life of Marilyn Monroe that boils her down to her traumatic childhood, her traumatic transition into the film industry, and her traumatic ultimate demise. Yes, there’s a lot of trauma. We have to also realize that this movie is not really a biopic and does not purport, necessarily, to tell the exact story of Monroe’s life, even though it does reference actual events. Is it really about the horrors of mental health? Is it an exploration of the pressures of fame? Is it about the trauma inflicted on women by patriarchal society? It is a lot of things. Monroe saying “Daddy” a lot ensues.
First, Blonde is an art film. It is beautiful. There are recreations of scenes from Marilyn Monroe’s pinnacle as a starlet in Hollywood that are breathtaking. Dominik chooses to shoot the film in various colors and a stark black and white and the aspect ratio changes from scene to scene. It is very lovely to look at and get swept away in. However, the film is also just artsy. It’s amorphous and abstract and frustratingly obtuse. Yes, it’s clearly “about” the “life” of “Marilyn Monroe”, but really, I don’t know what it was “about”. It drifts along from moment to moment in the life of its central character, but it all feels very weightless.
The biggest reason to watch Blonde is to see Ana de Armas go for it again. She’s really an extraordinary actress, who gives her all to her performances and somehow shines in each role. She was the best part of No Time to Die even though she was in that movie for less than 15 minutes. Here, she does the work to look and sound like Monroe. She approximates the starlet just right, so that even though it is an impersonation, it is also a character with a beating and broken heart.
Ultimately, Blonde is a frustrating viewing experience. It is demanding and difficult, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it feels like it lacks focus. Ana de Armas gives a fantastic performance that is a must-see for this star on the rise. Give it a chance, I guess, but it might take a couple days to get through the 3-hour runtime – so just a handful of popcorn for this one.