This is one of the most anticipated films of this end of the year: Blonde with Ana de Armas is finally available on Netflix. Is This Fake Marilyn Monroe Biopic Worth Watching?
WHAT DOES IT TALK ABOUT ?
Adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’ bestseller, BLONDE is a bold reinterpretation of the trajectory of Marilyn Monroe, one of Hollywood’s most timeless icons. From her tumultuous childhood to her meteoric rise and complex love stories – from Norma Jeane to Marilyn – BLONDE blurs the line between fact and fiction to explore the growing gap between her public persona and the person she she was intimate.
WHO IS IT WITH?
To embody Norma Jeane alias Marilyn Monroe, it is the Cuban actress Ana de Armas (revealed in Knock Knock and seen since in Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out, Dying can wait and The Gray Man) who was chosen. The actress has been transformed and has slipped into the skin of the Hollywood icon with great ease.
At his side, we find Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire), Adrien Brody (The Pianist, The Grand Budapest Hotel), Julianne Nicholson (Masters of Sex), Caspar Philipson (Jackie, Mission Impossible: Fallout) or Toby Huss (Jerry Maguire , Ghostbusters).
WELL WORTH A LOOK ?
Blonde is one of those highly anticipated films that have been the subject of many controversies even before its release. But are they really justified? The feature film by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) took a long time to be released on Netflix due to artistic discrepancies – notably on the raw sex scenes and sequences violent – between the director and the platform.
Finally, the filmmaker won his case with a final cut of his own but an NC-17 classification (which corresponds to a ban on those under 17 across the Atlantic). This deal seems the wisest because Blonde is full of shocking and disturbing scenes, which are best put in front of an informed audience. In France, the film is prohibited for those under 18.
Yes, this fake biopic is not for everyone and it requires a certain requirement. But it is totally worth seeing and experiencing, as it is a real experience. Especially when you keep in mind that this is an interpretation of the life of Marilyn Monroe and not a biopic in the strict sense of the term or a documentary. It is thanks to this distinction that Andrew Dominik can allow himself an uncompromising, strong and brilliant fiction.
The filmmaker adapts the bias of author Joyce Carol Oates, who depicted in her book “Blonde” a toxic Hollywood environment, a tragic woman’s journey and a life made of glitter and blood through the iconic figure of Marylin Monroe, in a mesmerizing fog between fiction and reality.
Andrew Dominik reappropriates this figure and this fictionalized story to deliver a poignant horrific tale about a woman abandoned, shaped, desired, shouted down, assaulted, abused and killed by the men who crossed her path. While the themes covered are universal, the multiple references to the star’s life are more or less accessible to novices, as the film focuses more on a sensory experience than on a factual account of his career.
For this, he immerses himself in the fantasized meanders of the darkest recesses of the Hollywood star’s existence and erects him as a symbol of a powerful resilience and a force of nature, shared between the candid need to to be loved and recognized by all and the intelligent and subtle perception of the violence and injustice of the world around him.
This exercise in style is reminiscent of that of Pablo Larraín, who had already shaped other fictionalized visions of major female figures in his own way: Lady Diana (Kristen Stewart) in Spencer and Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in Jackie. Each of them had had its “horror movie”, its tragically oppressive story and its disturbing and very dramatic staging.
But Andrew Dominik goes further than the two films mentioned above and is rather eyeing the side of David Lynch and his own muse: the character of Laura Palmer, heroine of the Twin Peaks series. This young woman, loved and cherished by all, was the prey of a demonic evil which made her lead a double life and which made her suffer the worst atrocities.
Leaving aside the part of fantastic, Blonde and Twin Peaks share many points in common. The two heroines suffer from a kind of split personality and are torn between two identities, very different but which ultimately feed off each other.
To be or not to be Marilyn
Marilyn Monroe wouldn’t be Marilyn Monroe without Norma Jeane and Norma Jeane wouldn’t be Norma Jean without Marilyn Monroe. And Blonde strives to show how these two identities complement each other as much as they cannibalize each other, alternating between voluptuous dreamlike sequences and more intense nightmarish scenes.
Certain sequences of the film will not leave the spectators unmoved, even if far from the vulgar and overly graphic advertised, in particular the scenes of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence. Do we really want to see this? Absolutely not. But they are part of a permanent tension and a feeling of oppression which hover over the whole film which structures a descent into hell and a vice which tightens around Marilyn.
At best, you will be moved and moved by the content of these scenes, at worst you will find them in very bad taste. Apart from these sequences, surely debatable, the rest of the proposal seems to be a formidable playground for Andrew Dominik who had fun with its staging, its lights, the succession between black and white and color – and even the infrared! – to deliver memorable sequences.
The director brings the greatest care to this project which has taken more than ten years to complete and for which he has developed an “image bible” of more than 700 pages. Blonde is also enriched by lavish costumes, sets and other props and created, recreated and crafted with precision, authenticity and depth. A real craftsmanship was carried out on Blonde and this visual richness makes it possible to offer a unique ornament to this case.
And of course, the centerpiece of Blonde: Ana de Armas. The Cuban actress surely holds one of her roles of her life. She slips with disconcerting ease into the skin of Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe – without prostheses but hours of make-up and hairdressing – and delivers a performance as disturbing as it is prodigious. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the cast is impeccable, but it’s really Ana de Armas who shines in the film.
If the length of the film (2h46) could put some people off, the cinematographic experience that is Blonde is well worth the detour, even if it is all the more appreciable on a big screen. We will like it or we will not like this heartbreaking and radical visit into the fictional psyche of Marilyn Monroe but one thing is certain we will not remain indifferent to it.