The Reel Review
Ana de Armas stars as the legendary Marilyn Monroe in this unconventional, wildly fictional, pseudo-biography about the movie star. The NC-17-rated Netflix drama is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel that fictionalized Monroe’s trauma-filled life, which ended in her tragic death from a drug overdose in 1962 at the age of 36.
First – Cuban-born de Armas (No Time to Die, Knives Out) is absolutely stunning as Monroe. Her resemblance is shockingly accurate and other than the occasional accent slip, her breathy performance is superb. Blonde also showcases some impressive production design, costuming and cinematography, with solid performances from Bobby Cannavale as second husband Joe DiMaggio and Adrien Brody as third husband Arthur Miller. But there is no real story here – just an exhaustingly bloated, nearly three hours of alternating color and black-and-white vignettes, showing Monroe being repeatedly abused, degraded and sexually assaulted.
Very little in this film is factually accurate. There is no evidence that Monroe was in a three-way relationship with Charles Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson. Nor is there evidence that President Kennedy ever raped Monroe or sent government officials to kidnap her and perform a forced abortion on her – or that she had any other abortions, for that matter. Blonde does get one moment right – that the notoriously jealous (and violent) DiMaggio split from Monroe after seeing her film her iconic subway grate scene in The Seven Year Itch.
Writer/director Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) clearly set out to make an epic, dreamily bleak, artistic masterpiece. But instead, Blonde is a mean-spirited, pitiless, pretentious bore. Monroe was exploited in life and through Dominik’s lurid film, continues to be exploited in death. Without de Armas, Blonde would have been an F. Both Monroe and de Armas deserved a way better story than this visually arresting but pointless, cringeworthy film.
• Blonde is the first NC-17 rated film on a streaming platform and the first major NC-17 rated Hollywood film since 1995’s Showgirls, starring Elizabeth Berkeley and Gina Gershon.
• Cuban-born Ana de Armas says she spent nine months trying to perfect Monroe’s voice and American accent. Dominik says post-production work was done to make de Armas sound “more American.”
• Writer/director Andrew Dominik says the film’s death scene was shot in the same room where Marilyn Monroe actually died.