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Opening in 1933 Los Angeles, Norma Jeane Mortenson (Lily Fisher/Ana de Armas) who would become Marilyn Monroe, suffers from a childhood of abuse and neglect. Abandoned by her father, abused by her mentally unstable mother, Norma Jeane is finally brought to a home for orphans.

In her late teens, she was “discovered” by Hollywood to continue a life of abuse, fear and mental instability.

As Norma Jeane’s career propels her to stardom and notoriety, money, fame, and marriages never fill the void of abandonment left in her soul.


“Blonde” is a standout film based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates.

The contrast between this beautiful film and the dark subject creates an unusual dynamic. Norma Jeane sees Marilyn Monroe as her stage persona, but as her fame grows she becomes her alter ego, a dark pool in which she begins to drown.

After her career as she goes from magazine pin-up girl to B-star to A-level star, her mental stability becomes increasingly sketchy.

The people around him amplify his stress. From spoiled Hollywood royalty Cass (Xavier Samuel) and Eddy (Evan Williams), husband Joe Dimaggio (Bobby Cannavale) and soon-to-be husband Authur Miller (Adrien Brody), Monroe’s failures in relationships and marriage continued to spiral descending.

Her struggles with pregnancy, abortion, and motherhood also create a very complex layer in the film. With feelings of abandonment as a foundation, her emotional struggles with abortion turn directly into a growing stain of guilt.

Director Andrew Dominik presents us with a magnificent film. It’s like opening a window for the audience to literally step back in time. The style, coloring and lighting are remarkable. The sets are exquisite and further deepen the realization of each moment. Yet despite all the care and detail put into this story, the film’s constant negativity continually weighs on viewers.

Monroe is portrayed as a victim of society, culture, family, and nature. Any flicker of happiness she might experience is quickly snatched away from her and us to continue the victimization of this poor woman. This lack of balance begins to dilute the impact of his struggles as this constant darkness overwhelms the story.

Dominik describes his film as “an avalanche of images and events”. It’s an apt description, the similarities line up with Terrance Malek’s “Tree of Life,” but the lyrical quality of this film differs in that it’s used to tell a very dark story. Norma Jeane is rarely shown to be happy and when she is, it quickly turns into tragedy or struggle. This story isn’t about Marilyn Monroe’s career, it’s about what the glitz and glamor was hiding. The detail and graphic nature of this story weakens the adjective “entertainment” as a descriptor. The rampant nudity, graphic perspectives of abortion and sexuality will sour viewers’ tastes and define why this film is rated NC-17.

The cast is outstanding throughout. The story is so tight and deftly tailored that a weak performance would stand out like a blemish on Monroe’s perfect skin. Of course, the strength of the whole film rests on the often bare shoulders of Ana de Armas. His immensely complex portrayal of Norma Jeane and Marilyn Monroe set the stage for everything this movie has to offer. His two characters are distinct, but are the same person. She bares her body, her emotions and her soul to create a sad and vulnerable victim of the society, culture and Hollywood of the 50s and 60s. She becomes the star child of the male sexualization of women, of sexual misconduct and sexual abuse. It presents itself as a cautionary tale about the abandonment of family, mental illness and the distorting nature of power.

As this 2 hour and 45 minute film unfolds, we discover that Norma Jeane has her very own “Rosebud” representing her lost youth, her fork in life’s path, and her chance at happiness. “Blonde” takes viewers into the ominous depths of Marilyn Monroe’s life, delivering a dark and depressing story of glamour, glitz and sadness.


Based on the 2000 fictional novel by Joyce Carol Oates, “Blonde” is a deeply flawed semi-biopic that blurs fantasy and reality regarding the life of movie star legend Marilyn Monroe. The reality is an alarming American tragedy, and the fiction is a relentlessly disturbing film.

With its NC-17 rating and shocking graphic sexual content, “Blonde” is a polarizing and controversial take on one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons. Norma Jeane deserved better in life, and a much better portrayal in a movie after her death.

Not that Ana de Armas doesn’t impress in a remarkable transformation as the stunningly gorgeous, breathy-voiced actress whose traumatic childhood forever damaged her psyche.

She has the looks, the voice, and the demeanor in her recreation, but sadly, she spends much of the film in tears.

She wears these memorable outfits well and costume designer Jennifer Johnson captures every look in great detail.

With such copious nudity and its running time of 2 hours and 46 minutes, at least half an hour of topless could have been cut. Not that edgier editing would have saved the film, but it certainly would have helped.

Writer-director Andrew Dominik worked on bringing this adaptation to the screen for over 10 years. The source material is deeply flawed anyway as it’s filmed as a dreamlike fantasy – so unless you know the factual details of Marilyn’s life, you’ll be adrift. What is wrong and what really happened? You will have to find out for yourself.

For example, her first husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, is not mentioned by name in the credits, only “Ex-Athlete”. To be fair, Bobby Cannavale is a fine incarnation of the puncher.

As second husband Arthur Miller, Adrien Brody fares better and has the best scene when they talk together for the first time. It’s well established that Miller was captivated by her enthusiasm for “the job” and her knowledge of the literature and the characters. She had an intuitive sense of the material, but unfortunately she was not allowed to realize her great potential.

Growing up with a schizophrenic mother (a terrifying performance by Julianne Nicholson), Norma Jean was sent to an orphanage. She endured so much hardship that we see why she had such big issues with her dad and just wanted to be loved. Young actress Lily Fisher is heartbreaking as young Norma Jeane.

Starting out as a model, Monroe moved on to acting – her first role was in the Oscar-winning ‘All About Eve’ as a date with the villainous George Sanders. The studio system’s casting couch is nothing new, but the way Marilyn was brutalized by men in power is heartbreaking. Treated like a toy boy and nothing more than a sex toy is unsettling enough, and when the film dissolves into porn scenes with lascivious pals Charlie Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edgar G. Robinson Jr. (Garret Dillahunt), it’s time to squirm.

(I wonder how long it will take Netflix viewers to turn off the movie after these graphic sexual encounters). The more sordid things, especially the lewd JFK scene, are painful to watch, very unsettling.

The fantasy aspect is concerning, and after revealing that she had an abortion ordered in the studio and then lost a baby through miscarriage, did we need a voice and image of the fetuses?

Dominik’s overly melodramatic and turgid script, which he describes as an avalanche of images and events, is confusing and messy, and does not serve the actress well. No one is portrayed in a good light. (Although cinematographer Chayse Irvin’s work with black and white and technicolor scenes is interesting).

The film only shows fleeting snippets of joy, and yes, its public and private images are so uncomfortably contrasted.

“Blonde” is a confusing, disturbing, dark film that does the tragic star a disservice and ends more like a nightmare because of its feverish dreamy elements. I’ll never watch this again, and I can’t ignore the things I wish I could see.

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