OPINION: ‘Blonde’ falters in telling the tale of an American icon


Courtesy of IMDb

Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde” has a glaring problem throughout its two-and-a-half-hour narrative. It consistently asks the audience to look at Marilyn Monroe, played by actress Ana de Armas, as a real person but refuses to treat her like one.

There is a recent trend in the biopic genre where filmmakers not only document the lives of their subjects but also explore some underlying lessons in the making of a celebrity. We saw it this summer with Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” and are now seeing it in “Blonde,” a movie based on the fictional book by Joyce Carol Oates. It is the heartbreaking tale of America’s blonde bombshell, Marilyn Monroe, that denies its subject any autonomy.

There are far too many instances where Norma Jeane, Monroe’s given name and how she is credited throughout the film, falls victim to powerful men and has to be rescued by them.

It is an undisputed truth that Monroe was taken advantage of by those around her, but it is a disservice to say that she just let things happen to her without a fight when the exact opposite is true.

The film continuously covers how invasive the press and audiences were in Norma’s life. In one scene, during an argument with The Playwright, read Arthur Miller, Norma looks into the camera and asks “What business of yours is my life?”

This line and delivery would be incredibly powerful if it were not in a for-profit film about Marilyn Monroe’s life. By making “Blonde,” the filmmakers are actively going against their message that we should let Monroe rest in peace and not care about her life.

Aside from this fundamental issue, the film is technically sound. It is mostly shot in black-and-white and Dominik and cinematographer Chayse Irvin masterfully recreate the iconic sights and sounds that are cornerstones to Monroe’s career.

De Armas anchors “Blonde” with her performance. She is both wonderfully bright and haunting as Monroe despite the rocky script and questionable liberties taken in the film. It was exciting to see her in a role that she could really sink her teeth into.

Watching this film is not for the faint of heart nor is it for anyone who cares about Marilyn Monroe or Norma Jeane Mortenson.