Blonde (2022) Ana is Sensational as Marilyn B-


“I wish they’d let her die.” So said film critic Pauline Kael about the great Marilyn Monroe.

And that’s precisely how I felt watching writer-director Andrew Dominik’s one-note adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel “Blonde.” While Oates’s novel was expansive, Dominik’s film is reductive. Reductive to the point that all we have here is Marilyn, the abused and exploited. From the moment she is born as Norma Jean Mortenson in 1926 to her premature death of apparent suicide in 1962 (age 36), the list of indignities that Dominik forces on us include:

  • Her abuse as a child by her schizophrenic mother, a superb Julianne Nicholson.
  • Her rape by a studio boss on the floor of his office.
  • The condescension and contempt with which the Industry looked at her.
  • The alcohol and the pills.
  • Giving JFK a blow job while he watches rockets on television.
  • Her marriage to Joe Di Maggio. He beats her and wants her to stay home.
  • Her marriage to Arthur Miller uses her as inspiration for the “Marilyn” character in “After the Fall” and, of course, “The Misfits.”
  • Her stream of miscarriages and abortions.

Ana de Armas is sensational, immersing herself entirely in the role of Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe. Dominik seamlessly weaves her into several of Marilyn’s movies, from “All About Eve” (1950) to Niagara (1953) Film Review A- TheBrownees (1953) to “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953) to “Some Like It Hot” (1959) and, as he glides back and forth from color to monochrome, you are reminded that this is the same director who, together with cinematographer Roger Deakins, gave us one of the most visually striking of Westerns”; “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”

Unfortunately, at three hours, “Blond” overruns its welcome. It becomes the Passion Play of Marilyn Monroe. As time passed, I began to think of another Passion Play from 1974: the great Gena Rowlands in “A Woman Under the Influence.” There are several similarities:

  • Both films are painfully overlong.
  • Both films were directed by dictatorial auteurs (Rowlands by her writer-directed husband, John Cassavetes).
  • Both films view a troubled woman through the lens of a male gaze, giving absolutely no thought to the woman’s inner workings.
  • Rowlands and de Armas give performances worthy of whole rows of Oscars, but their tales of woe become exhausting.

Did anyone stop to think about the phenomenon that was Marilyn Monroe? That sublime natural talent. From her first moment on screen with Louis Calhern in “The Asphalt Jungle,” you fell under her spell. What an absolute delight she was singing “Diamonds” in “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds.” And gave one of the most incredible comedic performances in “Some Like It Hot.” What was that? That was pure joy! A joy that is ultimately, artificially, and destructively absent from “Blonde.”

Like Michelle Williams before her, Ana de Armas won an Oscar nomination for playing Marilyn, an honor the Academy never extended to Marilyn herself.


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