At A Glance
A heart-breaking, but tantalising watch, Blonde unfolds the painful destruction of one of the most iconic figures in history; submerged in physical and emotional trauma and unescapable loneliness, we find out who the real Norma Jeane is.
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Written by Andrew Dominik
Based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates
Released by Netflix
2022, 166 minutes
Ana de Armas as Norma Jeane
Adrien Brody as The Playwright
Xavier Samuel as Cass
Bobby Cannavale as The Ex-Athlete
Julianne Nicholson as Gladys
By Jenna Bagnall
Blonde is a depiction of a truly, classic icon, yet how well do we really know Marilyn Monroe? The story that follows Monroe’s travesties and tragedies, based on the bestselling novel written by Joyce Carol Oates, starts with a horrifying insight into the abuse and detachment of her childhood. We promptly see this prevail into her adolescence and begin to bleed into Monroe’s rise to fame. Directed by Andrew Dominik, Blonde unpicks a somewhat graphic side to Monroe’s life. Told through a personal portrayal and played by Ana de Armas, Armas immediately draws you in with her offering of Monroe’s quaint subtle smile, slow movements, timeless beauty, and her longing, but fearful stare.
This raw tale of Monroe’s life may be ‘too’ real in parts and an uncomfortable watch for some, however this supplements our perception of how painful many of Monroe’s experiences really were. Dominik’s intention wasn’t to make Blonde a comfortable viewing, but one with purpose and intention.
With a tainted beginning, we see Monroe entering a male-dominated film industry, and be taken advantage of repeatedly, which we soon begin to see seep into the characters she played on set. As her life unravels on and off screen, Monroe is used, betrayed, controlled, and sexualised in every setting; sculpted, and moulded to suit everyone around her, but Norma herself. Arguably one of the most identifiable figures in history was nothing but other people’s ‘perfect’ amalgamation of their own creations. Jumping from colour to black and white throughout, we see Monroe seemingly unable to escape from her turbulent and chequered past, which foreshadows Monroe’s eventual fate.
Her consistent and constant lack of any form of attachment, love, and stability is demonstrated through an absent relationship with her mother, a non-existent father and two abusive, failed marriages; every detached, aching, and afflicting crack of Monroe’s life is sprawled out in front of us on screen. Blonde conveys the destruction of the physical and emotional agony Monroe endures over her short life; through paranoia, breakdowns, forced abortions, a heart-breaking miscarriage and inevitable alcohol and drug abuse, we see this influential, resilient woman crippled with internal pain and eternal loneliness. Even at the latter stages of her life there was no familiarity or simplicity for Monroe, almost child-like, but with intense emotional intelligence, a seemingly strange juxtaposition in character from scene to scene.
Monroe’s closing grasp is her fatal overdose, in which Armas films Norma Jeane’s final moments in the actual bedroom Monroe was found in, intimate and factual to true events, yet arguably intrusive and exceedingly exploitative.
Blonde is an enthralling watch, but undoubtedly not a light-hearted one.