New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Blonde

Blonde Movies and Shakers September 20, 2022

In a commanding performance, Ana de Armas shows there was a lot more going on under the makeup in this graphic and disturbing NC-17 rated film. Writer/Director Andrew Dominik pulls no punches graphically showing all in closeup from every angle in this fictional representation of the life of Marilyn Monroe. De Armas creates a portal to understanding Marilyn’s damaged but resilient soul in Dominik’s interpretation of Joyce Carol Oates’ controversial best selling book, “Blonde.” Development for the project began in 2010 but filming didn’t start until 2019.

De Armas fully exposes her, physically and emotionally in this very disturbing film. It depicts Marilyn’s abusive childhood with a mentally ill mother, always hoping the father she never knew would rescue her. She looked to find a husband who would replace the man and called each of her husband’s “Daddy.”  But she was sexually abused by men throughout her life, including being raped by a studio director in the beginning of her career. The film intimates with a photo that she fantasized that her father may have been Clark Gable. Curious that Dominik didn’t include “The Misfits” that starred Gable and Monroe in this film. But it was already too long. 

Fans of Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale)  and JFK (Caspar Phillipson) will see their heroes portrayed in the most unflattering light. Joe is a bully and a brute. JFK treats Marilyn like a whore, conducting the nation’s business on the phone while ordering her to perform fellatio in the film’s most sickening scene.  

Fans of Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale)  and JFK (Caspar Phillipson) will see their heroes portrayed in the most unflattering light. Joe is a bully and a brute. JFK treats Marilyn like a whore, conducting the nation’s business on the phone while ordering her to perform fellatio in the film’s most sickening scene.  

The actress’ self-doubt is always in play. The only people who help her confidence are two more men who end up taking advantage of her. They play the sons of Charlie Chaplin, Cass, (Xavier Samuel) and Edward G. Robinson, Jr. (Evan Williams). They befriend Marilyn and make her part of their sexy threesome. 

We liken the structure of the film to an artistic collage that flows from fragment to fragment. Dominik creates reenactments of pivotal moments in her life using kitschy visuals to transition from one scene to another. He segues using a pan up to ethereal clouds in the sky to end a chapter. In the  graphic menage à trois sex scene with Cass and Eddie, Dominik builds to an-over-the top orgasm that fades into a gushing waterfall to enhance the reaction as it transitions to the next scene. 

The costuming is spot on for the 1950’s and early ’60’s. Jennifer Johnson gets the era’s style right, from the iconic gowns, movie wardrobe to her casual sweater-girl look with capri pants. Credit goes to her for recreating the famous halter dress and to Dominik for the way her skirt flies up revealing her undies over the subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch.” She look so glamorous. De Armas isn’t nearly a full-figured as Marilyn Monroe, but she inhabits the sexy fragility of Marilyn’s image well in that scene. The “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” musical number doesn’t sparkle as well. 

Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody) is the only love interest to escape being savaged in this story. Only he recognizes her intelligence and talent and seemed the only one who really loved her. But he also has to deal with her descent into drugs and booze. Brody is a more than competent embodiment of the celebrated author and playwright.

De Armas’ physicality exudes sensual, soulful, teary eyes and extremely alluring body language to play the movie star who used her femininity to reach for the stars. She was frustrated that she was never taken seriously for her brain or her acting ability. But here she appears slight and much more girlish than the world’s sexiest woman.

The portrayal of abortion is presented as one that audiences could see as objectionable, especially in light of the polarization of this year’s Supreme Court ruling. The depiction of a camera shooting from the point of view inside Marilyn’s vagina during an abortion may drive some people to the theatre exits. There will be some viewers who may believe this is a movie with a political anti-abortion agenda.

Director Dominik goes back and forth from black and white to color. It’s a curious technique since there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason why the color saturation changes. This film is overloaded, hard to watch, way too long, and horrifying, graphically showing every kind of abuse. But you have to separate the lead’s performance from the material. De Armas is the bombshell in a movie that’s a bit of a dud. 

Netflix.    2 hours 46 minutes.      NC-17

In select theaters now. Streaming on Netflix September 28th. 

The post Blonde first appeared on Movies and Shakers.

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