Sep 25, 2022
By Kaveh Jalinous

Web Exclusive

Andrew Dominik’s long-awaited, somewhat controversial and NC-17-rated Marilyn Monroe “biopic” Blonde is far too ambitious for its own good.

Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ novel of the same name, Blonde tracks Monroe (Ana de Armas) throughout her lifetime, highlighting her troubled childhood, highly publicized love life and her descent into alcohol and drug addiction. Channeling the icon’s entire life into a three-hour film sacrifices historical accuracy for surrealism.

The real conflict in Blonde is Monroe’s battle to maintain and build on her public image while also trying to deal with the pains of her private life. These include her strained relationship with her mentally unstable mother and her nonexistent relationship with her anonymous father. To explore these struggles, the film divides Monroe into two characters: Marilyn the star. and Norma Jean, the person behind the façade. The film explores the thin boundaries between these two characters in easily noticed situations as well as those where they are completely blurred.

Blonde’s surrealist elements are simultaneously the film’s greatest successes and greatest weaknesses. In a world where every biopic feels like a carbon copy, there’s nothing quite like Dominik’s film. For three hours, Blonde successfully traps its audience within the subconscious of someone whose identity is anything but constant, adapting in seconds according to the context. Having a scattered, non-linear narrative also brilliantly pedestals the film’s stylistic elements. The cinematography is stunning, bouncing effortlessly between vivid color scenes and crisp monochrome ones. Additionally, the film’s score, composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, is hauntingly beautiful and perfectly connects with the images on-screen.

At the same time, this approach introduces more problems than it solves. Not a single character in Blonde, including Monroe herself, has any sense of personality. There is nothing that makes the audience want to connect with them, or believe that they are real. One can argue that this decision is intentional, since Dominik’s goal is to show how Monroe was constantly exploited, fetishized and dehumanized by those around her. But, when the film itself doesn’t consider or treat Monroe as a real human being, it’s difficult to want to listen to its ideas. The relentless push for style over substance clearly states this film has nothing to say.

Exploitation aside, Blonde is a taxing experience. Any Netflix user could decide whether they like the film in about 15 minutes since the entire narrative is a series of redundant events with no internal logic or sense of rhythm.

The film runs into an unusual paradox in that it doesn’t give enough truth about Monroe’s life to feel like a biopic, but since it’s impossible to forget that it’s based on a real person, it never feels like a fictitious film either. Instead, it plays like filler content, constantly in search of a message that continues to remain locked behind empty, soulless sequences.

In a film full of swings and misses, Ana de Armas’ performance is a home run. From Blonde’s opening scene, she expertly sinks into the role, unlocking a certain sense of fragility that brilliantly depicts Monroe’s battle between her two personas. Sadly, she isn’t given very much to work with, especially regarding character development. Regardless, while the film’s script bars her performance from being as dynamic as it could be, she still delivers. (

Author rating: 5/10

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