One of the biggest names in the world of film and Hollywood belongs to none other than Marilyn Monroe herself. She is a pop icon in cinema and motion pictures and Netflix has given us a doozy of a film that depicts this woman in all her glory — with all the ups and downs that come together with her story. Blonde is now out on Netflix which also happens to be the very topic of this particular review.
Blonde Review: Overview
Before diving into our review of Blonde, here are a couple of things that you must know. stars Ana De Armas as the titular character Norma Jeane Mortenson or more popularly known by her screen name — Marilyn Monroe. The film is based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates and is written and directed by Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Killing Them Softly). Brad Pitt also produces blonde and together with De Armas also stars Bobby Cannavale and Adrien Brody amongst other actors and actresses.
The film is a fictionalized take on the life and career of American actress Marilyn Monroe as it follows her troubled childhood, her difficult rise to fame, her complicated relationships, and her mental disposition and struggles as an actress in Hollywood. The story encompasses the childhood of the actress all the way to her demise in show business and eventually her passing as well.
Blonde Review: View Discretion Warnings
Blonde contains scenes that are inappropriate for younger audiences as it contains images and scenes that showcase explicit nudity, alcoholism, sex, and drugs. The film also deals with content that tackles mental health issues and abortion. We, therefore, reiterate that this film is suited for mature audiences.
Blonde Review: Spoiler Warnings
The majority of Monroe’s life is pretty common knowledge due to her pop culture icon standing. Most of us have little knowledge of the actress’ life. There’s the added fact that the story for Blonde is based on a novel. We will however still keep this review of Blonde free from spoilers but be warned that some broad strokes may tend to be a bit spoiler-y. We will focus this review on the visual aesthetics, emotionality of the story, and the acting performances of the main cast members.
Indulging the Senses
Blonde is a visual masterpiece. There is just something awe-strikingly beautiful with what is achieved through the direction of Andrew Dominik. There is an artistic touch that is delivered through and through with every visual and auditory choice that is taken for Blonde. There is a holistic treatment that the film goes through that doesn’t just deal with what we see but also with every heard and unheard sound. The balance of everything is also brilliantly done as they complement each other to near perfection. Blonde is an immersive experience that floods each and every one of our senses.
The visuals and cinematography of Blonde are on a whole new level. There is a back-and-forth and shifting of aspect ratios. This primarily gives the old-school film atmosphere but the consistency is clearly done to keep viewers engaged and thinking. It becomes immediately obvious that this film is not just artistic and poetic in its visuals but is very powerful in its themes, message, and symbolism. There’s a lot of depth to it all and meaning and the reason behind each visual direction and choice. This is also seen through shifts from the black and white color palette which tie into the confusion, mess, and chaos of Marilyn Monroe’s life as a person struggling between two personalities or identities. Just as Monroe tries to hold on to both the icon that she has become and to the past and the truth of who she is as Norma Jeane, the visuals also follow suit. The black and white squared style isn’t just meant to depict a ’50s kind of filmmaking to keep up with the given timeline of events but these moments closely tie in with the icon that we have come to know as Marilyn Monroe. When the colors do flood in there is a closeness to the reality that is being depicted. It may not necessarily follow this flow per se because the point of it all is not to paint a picture of structure but rather utter chaos which is a reflection of the disposition and external occurrences in our main character’s life.
The visual effects are just on a poetic level. We primarily get surrealist moments and experiences that capture a blurred sense of reality. This goes back again to complement the flow and direction of the story. It all feels like one big dream sequence that’s just magnificently done. From the threesome sex scene where the bed sheets transition to a flowing waterfall, to the burning house that Marilyn steps in to rescue her baby, and even to the creative decision to film the perspective of abortion through the main character’s vagina — everything is done for the sake of art but each having purpose and meaning. There is simply no lack of artistry in how Blonde has been created as the very art of it all becomes a means to satiate the intellect.
The auditory components of the film don’t lag behind either. There is a spine-tingling sensation that occurs when a lack of sound is present. It’s almost as if we are brought back to a silent film at times. There are moments that linger on and don’t have much to say or prove. This is an ethereal beauty and almost calculative move in ensuring a complete trance-like experience. It’s subtle in the way that it’s executed but the deafening silence is almost a character in itself. The conversation between Norma Jeane and her mother in the mental hospital is a great example. There is a rawness and authentic atmosphere that is brought to life. It’s as if we are right smack in the middle of an awkward conversation. This pairs magnificently with the variations in De Armas’ acting skills, but more on that later. I also would like to point out the chosen songs for this film where some are so explicit and obviously chosen as the lyrics “Bye-bye baby…” play immediately after Marilyn Monroe’s dream-like sequence for her abortion. It should be moments that are too crazy and corny to work but instead, they bring about huge grins for the bold creative choices that are taken.
A Dark Route
Blonde is not for the faint of heart. It’s actually very heavy and dark to be quite honest. It honestly took me time to digest and process it altogether due to the heavy content that is discussed. To put it into perspective it has resemblances to the fictionalized Princess Diana film which starred Twilight actress Kristen Stewart, entitled Spencer, with a few splashes of Joaquin Phoenix’s The Joker. There are so many themes, scenes, and moments that shake us to the core as viewers. As mentioned this isn’t much of a biopic but it has a lot of fictionalized moments and twisted versions of the truth while still anchoring the story to real-life people and events as a heavy source of inspiration. This had to be mentioned because of the artistry and story-telling capacity of Blonde centers on this truth. It’s an artistic expression that allows a story with so much meaning and depth to unfold.
This is where Blonde truly succeeds in my opinion. It’s a movie that heavily depicts the ability of art to convey truth and message in ways that we cannot fathom. The movie, therefore, relies on viewers to interpret and allow everything to simmer down to fully grasp the true meaning of what is being conveyed. It isn’t the spoon-feeding kind of story where in everything is just given for us to fully grasp the weightiness of it all. It does feel heavy enough as it is but when we process and break it down even further, that’s when we realize that there is more to it than meets the eye. There’s a lot of further digging that we have to do on our part to truly find ourselves uncovering what every shot, image, and even conversation or line has to truly say.
The film as mentioned in our disclaimer deals with mental health issues and a variety of darker components including the objectification of women during this particular era in Hollywood. These however are just at the surface level of the words. We cannot begin to fully describe the deeper truths and variety of several deeper truths that are embedded in this film that revolve around these said topics. The story in reality isn’t just about mental health and sex. For the mental health and state of Marilyn Monroe, it’s almost easy to label it simply as a mental health issue that borders on split personality or the like. The truth of the matter is however, Blonde becomes an explanation almost for such behavior. We get a character who seems to have blurred the lines in every aspect of her life. She has even created an almost different persona splitting up Norma Jeane and Marilyn Monroe as two very distinct yet alternating characters. It’s an identity crisis almost as she somehow loses the truth of who she is which seems to change on and off the screen and later on melds into just one confused being. This is how the aforementioned shifts in visuals come in. We are therefore treated to a journey of discovery. The truth behind who Monroe is? Well, that’s left for the history books. This movie, however, contrary to what other critics may say regarding the twisting of the icon’s truth is irrelevant as we dive back deeper into the fictionalized aspect. This is a version of Monroe. One that allows meaning to further be defined by art itself.
I mentioned the second theme that the film heavily dives into — sex and the objectification of women. This again is artistically portrayed in this film with no holds barred. The film doesn’t hold back to showing naked bodies and even extremely dark and twisted scenes that may put a nasty notch at the pit of your stomach. Issues such as abortion and even rape may be hard to swallow but they provide a very interesting and morally questioning way of allowing us to ponder over them. Correction. Not just ponder. Blonde has the ability to stir intellectual and moral questions that demand action. The film creatively overlays perfectly timed and chosen dialogues that are symbolically charged to pair over certain images. Take the scene where it seems that Monroe is talking to her unborn baby but in fact is speaking to her talent agent. The chosen dialogues that pair with the scene foreshadows events but also create a darker means of depicting such issues. The song that kicks in after the abortion scene also does the same trick. There is a manner with which this film doesn’t take anything lightly instead every decision, scene, and pairing is done strategically to point out a very important message. The film doesn’t also paint the victim card. Rather, Blonde shows the discrepancies in all our actions and how each and every one of them has its own individual consequences. This isn’t a film about good and bad guys but rather one that showcases equally flawed beings. The definition of humanity.
Watch Out For De Armas
Before I end this review of Blonde, I just feel the urgency and need to point out the amazing acting ability and all-out performance of Ana De Armas. We’ve seen her before in Knives Out and in the last and most recent Bond film but there is no comparison to what she has done for this film. Hands down her best film and acting to date. There will be more to come for sure but this film certainly opens the door for better things up ahead. Her portrayal of the iconic Marilyn Monroe is admittedly not an easy feat. These are big shoes to fill. It is very scary how she managed to pull it off. There is an unhinged yet almost innocent manner with which she portrays the character which is where it admittedly gets frighteningly amazing. She manages to balance juxtapositions of all sorts to deliver not just a mere accurate portrayal but one that adds so much more to Monroe. De Armas fully steps into a creative mode of acting here that borders on seriousness paired with exaggeration that just plain and simple works.
Blonde Review: Final Verdict
Blonde surprisingly has had critics taking sides. I find it simple. When you take it as a whole, going back to its role as an artistic expression rather than a biographical narration, and finally when you take the heaviness of it all constructively, Blonde is a pretty amazing film. As seen in our review, Blonde is creative and artistic while being completely meaningful as it carries so many timely and much-needed reflections on kind of messages. It’s a great film visually and in terms of its story and to top it all off, Ana De Armas cements herself as a force to be reckoned with in the movie industry. This is a must-watch film. One of the best to be honest to come out from Netflix in quite some time. I honestly believe even that if people would just look past some of their personal issues regarding this film, it may be a contender for the next Academy Awards.
Hype Meter: 9/10
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