Reviews of movies and TV focused on women

Blonde, a never ending nightmare

Ana de Armas in Blonde

Blonde, the Marilyn Monroe movie, is a horror story. Not the scary kind of horror story. This horror story is the misery, mistreatment, trauma, and horror that was Norma Jean Baker’s personal life. It’s painful to watch this nearly three hours of surreal, nightmarish explorations into Marilyn Monroe’s (Ana de Armas) tortured psyche.

Blonde is not a fun movie. It’s a series of vingnettes that only hang together as a story through accumulation. It begins with Norma Jean’s single mother (Julianne Nicholson) mistreating little Norma Jean. Her mother was institutionalized and the child sent to an orphanage.

She was raped by studio heads before getting jobs. She was haunted by abortions and miscarriages. Her absent father was always in her imagination. She was on drugs and booze and in dire need of mental health care, which she didn’t get.

Bobby Cannavale and Ana de Armas in Blonde
Sometimes the film was black and white, sometimes color

Her relationships were glossed over. We saw her with Eddy Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams) Cass Chaplin (Xavier Samuel) early in her career. Her marriages to Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) and Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody) were more steps on the descending staircase of her pain and agony. Her relationship with John Kennedy was pure exploitation on his part. There seemed to be no one in her life who loved her as something other than a symbol.

When she was out in public in her Marilyn Monroe persona, people looked to her like ravening beasts ready to consume and destroy her.

And destroy her they did.

Ana de Armas in Blonde

All credit to Ana de Armas and her make up team. She looked like the real woman. de Armas made Norma real and showed her descent through the circles of hell with clarity.

Blonde was directed by Andrew Dominik, who wrote the screenplay based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates. What the movie didn’t make me do was care. It didn’t make me understand what it was about Marilyn Monroe that made her worthy of my attention, the world’s attention. Her intelligence was only hinted at. Even the title, Blonde, is about a look, not a person.

Luckily, I already did care about Marilyn Monroe. I grew up on her movies, read about her story many times. If that hadn’t already been in my brain, this movie would have been even more horrific and troubling to watch than it already was. I had to force myself to keep watching, because I wanted to write a review of the film.

Responses to it have been all over the place and I wanted to watch it for myself. Some people could only talk about the sex and nudity. Some people could only talk about the way the movie was different from the novel. Me, I saw it as an examination of the way Hollywood and America treat women. They are commodities. They are human capital. They are objects, toys, blondes. Marilyn Monroe is the ultimate example.

There were some experimental techniques used to show mental illness and trauma in the film that may translate well into other situations. Other parts of it were weird and off-putting. In some ways the whole film was an experiment. As I stop writing, please imagine everything being overexposed and dissolving in a blur of light and glare. Bye . . .

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8 responses to “Blonde, a never ending nightmare”

  1. Just wanted to say that I enjoy your reviews! I hope you will keep them coming. (Haven’t seen this film yet. But will be keeping your comments in mind. )

  2. I always enjoy reading your reviews! I’ve watched many shows/movies that you’ve written about after having read your review on them.
    I had no interest in seeing this movie, though, and I agree with everything you’ve written here about how women are treated. But I did chuckle at the way you ended the review, hehe.

  3. I loved ‘Blonde’, and feel it is a reasonable, creative take on Monroe’s possible thoughts regarding her ‘luck’ in escaping the trauma of her youth by becoming a movie star. Many women admired as celebrities share similarly sinister stories: Frances Farmer, Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Patty Duke, Amy Winehouse etc. There is an abundance of examples of vulnerable, though intelligent and talented women abused by manipulative and self-serving men. Monroe undoubtedly grappled with her worth, and was very conflicted about her fame as a result. Such a sad and grotesque truth for these and other women, who still produced great work, despite their traumas and outright hostilities wrought upon them. These women are not examples of tragedy, however; the tragedy lies in the existence of lecherous, vile predators who feel justified in and entitled to their abusive behaviors.

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