There are few people more iconic, more ever-lasting, more coveted than Marilyn Monroe. She lived a turbulent yet incredible life, however short it was, and since then her legacy has lived on.
I was always interested to watch the new “biopic” ‘Blonde’ on Netflix, mostly to see how Ana de Armas lives up to the extraordinary actress herself. Marilyn was so singular, so unique, it would be hard for anyone to recreate – let alone Ana de Armas, who, all credit due to her, tried her very best.
As far as the movie goes, Ana de Armas portrayal of Marilyn was the best thing about it. The film itself was… virtually unwatchable. I’m sorry to say the director, Andrew Dominik, is a New Zealander, but I do not claim him, for out of all the rape scenes in ‘Blonde,’ the thing that raped Marilyn most was this movie as a whole.
It portrayed her as a whimpering pushover with daddy issues, a commodity to be used and abused – which was not who Marilyn Monroe was. This film is so obviously portrayed within the male gaze (something that feels so foreign and obviously jarring today) between all the sex scenes and the anti-abortion propaganda, it makes me wonder about the director more than Marilyn, with the amount the word “daddy” appears in the script. She constantly looks unsure of herself, pointing doe eyes and a quivering bottom lip at every man around her – where was the captivating, confident woman that bewitched the world?
You know that iconic picture of her in the white dress standing over a subway grate? The recreation of that in the film is a repeated scene of that filmed about 100 different ways over a period of about 5 minutes with creepy dissociative music in the background. Am I supposed to be hypnotized by her white briefs? We all know that’s a great picture, but clearly the director was hypnotized by Ana de Armas’ ass so much that we have to view several close ups of it – to get the full Marilyn effect, of course! Why else? Why focus on Monroe’s life, incredible filmography, and talent, when we could instead focus on her mostly fictional love life of threesomes, rape, and domestic abuse – in between shots of Ana’s ass of course, and perhaps a cute shot of her reading on the bed (or being drugged on a movie set) topless. Naturally.
As for the pregnancy scenes, between shots of Marilyn, there comes cut-aways of a CGI baby in the womb floating around with eerie music overlayed. In one scene the baby even speaks to her saying, “You won’t hurt me this time, will you? Not do what you did the last time?” Apart from it being wildly creepy, and as much as Dominik wants to say that’s it’s not a commentary on pro-life propaganda – art always has a narrative, whether you intend it to or not, and I think with a movie that is indubitably going to be highly watched due to it being both a film about Monroe and a film starring Ana de Armas, it’s going to touch – and no doubt influence – a lot of people. Planned Parenthood called it “anti-abortion propaganda,” and I fully agree. Dominik has clapped back saying the following:
“What the movie is saying is she’s not seeing reality. She’s seeing her own fears and desires projected onto the world around her. You see it constantly time and again that she’s reacting to a story that she’s carrying inside her. And I think sort of this desire to look at ‘Blonde’ through this Roe v. Wade lens is everybody else doing the same thing. They’ve got a certain agenda where they feel like the freedoms of women are being compromised, and they look at ‘Blonde’ and they see a demon, but it’s not really about that. I think it’s very difficult for people to step outside of the stories they carry inside themselves and see things of their own volition. And I think that’s really what the movie is about. The dangers of that. But you know, it’s difficult for people to be able to hold two things in their mind at once.”
This comment both undermines the importance of narrative reflected onto the world around us and undermines the audience themselves. It’s normalizing commentary like this that allows things like the overturning of Roe vs. Wade to become reality, and Dominik thinking that we don’t understand his “superior” understanding of what films are, is an insult to us and our intelligence. First, he insulted the memory of Marilyn with this film, and then he insults his audience. What a gem!
Apart from the obvious controversies throughout the film, the actual plot of the film is confused, and not gripping in the slightest. I was never truly pulled into the film, could never see Ana de Armas as Marilyn, and for someone like me who isn’t intricately familiar with Marilyn’s history, it was hard to follow what was actually happening in her life.
It’s worth noting that the film is not a biopic as it has been marketed. Instead, Netflix couldn’t get the story rights from her family, which means they went down the route of creating a film that was based on a fictional representation of her life, ‘Blonde’ by Joyce Carol Oates.
If you’re interested to find out what Marilyn’s life was really like, her own autobiography, ‘My Story’, explains her life, her rise to superstardom, and her marriage to Joe DiMaggio. It’s worth knowing the Marilyn went through her fair share of trauma, sure, but she was also confident, outspoken, empathetic to cast and crew, and stood up for herself. Marilyn was the woman who stormed off set when she found out a man was being paid more than her, not the woman who settles for being paid 500 dollars a week as the lead when her co-star is being paid $100,000. ‘Blonde’ does her memory a disservice, and it’s well and truly not worth wasting 2 hours and 47 minutes of your life on. Pass.