A review of Andrew Dominic’s Blonde, about Marilyn Monroe

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Ana de Armas plays Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik's Blonde.

Ana de Armas plays Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s Blond.
Photo: Netflix

Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ Pulitzer Prize finalist novel of the same name, Blond uses a work of biographical fiction to presumably search for deeper truths about Marilyn Monroe’s life. Unfortunately, director Andrew Dominik (The murder of Jesse James) errors depicting the cruel and unrelenting ways the world mistreated Monroe for humanizing her, and while the CVS receipt’s long list of atrocities certainly tells one side of her story, at 166 minutes the film also puts viewers through a hard work that you are most likely to do they are disengaged. That said, Ana de Armas (knives out) delivers a truly extraordinary performance as the platinum superstar and icon, while Dominik and his collaborators discover endlessly inventive ways to recreate highlights of Monroe’s iconography.

Portrayed by De Armas as an adult and Lily Fisher as a child, Norma Jeane Mortenson grows up in the ward of the state after her mother Gladys (Julianne Nicholson) is institutionalized for mental health issues. Believing her absent father to be a power player in Hollywood, Norma Jeane pursues a career as a model and actress, landing bit parts with the dubious help of Darryl F. Zanuck (David Warshofsky), who essentially gets her out of yet another studio decision: Makers Despite studying her craft with utter sincerity, the opportunities Norma Jeane receives are based largely on her alter ego’s explosive sexuality, and she takes solace in the attention as she strikes up a comforting three-way relationship with her fellow artists and low level celebrities Charles “Cass”. Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edward “Eddy” G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams).

Two husbands, retired baseball player Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) and playwright Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), come and go, as do two pregnancies. But as he experiences more success with movies like Itching seven years Y some like it hotan infrastructure of doctors and makeArtists gather (or gather) around her to make sure she looks like Monroe and, when she needs painkillers, feels like her, too. Now a bigger star than ever, she receives more opportunities and attention than ever before, leading to a relationship with President John Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), who, unsurprisingly, treats her no more tenderly than her previous lovers. . But years of physical abuse and the coping mechanism of substance abuse take their toll on her and send her down a dark path of addiction, loneliness and ruin.

To say that Ana de Armas is all It’s not hyperbole in this film: without his poignant, controlled performance, Dominik’s conception of Monroe could easily slide into disastrous histrionics. Oates’s book revisits, but intentionally doesn’t pretend to accurately describe who Monroe was and what she went through. But this adaptation, the second, after a television version made just after the publication of the novel in 2000, seems likely to become definitive, precisely because of the way in which de Armas manages to create a real and believable Norma Jeane, whose adult life became a wrestling match. between the way the world identified her and the way she saw herself.

It’s not uncommon for women to feel compelled to put a better public face on their behavior than they do in private, but to Norma Jeane, Monroe was that face: tender, unassuming, blithely accepting of humiliation. That her blond alter ego of hers becomes so loved, so media-obsessed, that she feels no one sees anything of the real person behind him becomes a painfully relatable struggle. And despite Dominik’s endless catalog of suffering, including sexual assault, near-constant control and abuse by his romantic partners, and two miscarriages from her unborn child’s point of view, de Armas injects depth and dimension into the few scenes. in which the audience gets to see Norma Jeane as a person with complex thoughts and feelings unconstrained by the world’s perception of her as a toy and an object.

In one of the first scenes, he puts his heart into auditioning for the movie. Don’t bother touching, only for the audition filmmakers to virtually ignore the pain of her own life that she clearly projects through the role of a sick nanny. In another, she makes a suggestion about one of Arthur Miller’s works that brings Miller (and us) to tears as she highlights her insight as an artistic collaborator of hers, for once not being seen for her beauty alone. . Whether the rest of the film resonates or not, with Norma Jeane, de Armas establishes her place among the most promising actresses of her generation, so well that the occasional accent of her Cuban heritage becomes irrelevant to her. the authenticity of her emotions.

BLONDE | From writer-director Andrew Dominik | Official Trailer | Netflix

It also helps tremendously that Dominik, working with cinematographer Chayse Irvin (blackkklansmanby Beyonce Lemonade special), recreates such specific and precise moments from the actress’s catalog of films and images that it’s easy to forget that De Armas is not actually Monroe. During the filming of some like it hotfor example, the filmmaker splices his star in a scene opposite Tony Curtis, and then cuts to a wider angle, lit in exactly the same way, to make it look like Monroe is walking straight out of the Billy Wilder movie.

Costume design by Jennifer Johnson (me, tony) and a phalanx to doThe artists further transform de Armas for shots that are nearly indistinguishable from the original, which have become the blueprint for our collective memories of Monroe. Meanwhile, a score by Dominik’s longtime collaborators Nick Cave and Warren Ellis strikes a fascinating middle ground between Vangelis’ dreamlike, futuristic work and Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting skeletal nightmares, holding together the disparate parts of this odyssey, exposition and character study. restlessly rolled into one.

Ultimately, Dominik assembles a film in which there’s a lot to admire, but not enough that works to fully focus on Marilyn Monroe, let alone the lost little Norma Jeane. Like, say, David Lynch Twin Peaks: Fire walk with me, Dominik clearly hoped to show the world what his tragic heroine endured before her passing: the person who suffered before her polished visage became immortal. Instead, he recreates what Monroe went through, blames us for subjecting her to it, and then leaves us with no clear picture of what we should have paid better attention to, let alone a general idea of ​​who she was.

What does Ana de Armas do in Blond is nothing short of transformative, but unfortunately the movie will probably do little to change the way people view Marilyn Monroe, once again a victim of people doing what they think is best for her, perhaps with consent but certainly without sufficient consideration.

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