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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

"Blonde:" Torture Porn on the Big Screen

On September 28th, the long awaited Marilyn Monroe biopic, Blonde premiered on Netflix. With Ana de Armas in the lead role as well as Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale featuring, along with Brad Pitt producing and Nick Cave composing the score, the film is practically overflowing with star power. Which makes the bizarre and disappointing final result all the more confusing. What exactly went wrong with Andrew Domink's Blonde and why is it so harmful to Marilyn Monroe's legacy?

There's no denying that Marilyn Monroe is one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. She lived a short whirlwind of a life as one of the brightest stars in Hollywood and was dead by 36. Making a biopic about her seems like a challenging but logical thing to do considering just how many people are familiar with her story or at least her image. With it's star-studded cast and hefty production budget, Blonde should've been a giant success. After news broke out that the film had received a 14 minute long standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, expectations were running high, but nobody could've imagined the train wreck that would follow once Blonde finally hit streaming services.

Andrew Dominik's Blonde was marketed as a straight forward Marilyn Monroe biopic but there isn't much of a linear story. It doesn't aim to tell the story of Marilyn Monroe but instead capture the general feeling and ambiance of her time in Hollywood. One of my least favorite parts of the film was that it's equal parts fiction and nonfiction. If I'm watching a biopic that aims to tell the story of someone's life, I don't want to be guessing which parts were real the whole time. For some reason, early on in the film there's a storyline about Monroe being in a polyamorous relationship with Charlie Chaplin's son and another man which I found very confusing,

For the most part, Blonde looks like a very professional film. The cinematography by Chayse Irvin is very pleasing to look at, and the cameras appear to be of the utmost visual quality. However, the editing department leaves a lot to be desired. I wasn't a big fan of parts of the film being in black and white and others being in color although I can respect the risk. The editing is pretty inconsistent throughout however what's the most bizarre are the random points where a CGI fetus will appear on screen for a few seconds. This is meant to illustrate Monroe's multiple failed attempts of conceiving a child, which is an important part of her story to portray but the way it's executed leaves a lot to be desired. Too much editing was spent on that CGI baby and not enough on the film's length because Blonde does not deserve its nearly three hour runtime.

Even before its official release, Blonde was surrounded by controversy. First being the casting of Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe. There are a lot of issues surrounding her performance as the lead role but none of them have to do with her being Cuban. If Rami Malek can play Freddie Mercury and be met with rapturous applause, Ana de Armas can play Marilyn Monroe and get that same respect. I have seen multiple accounts of people saying that while they didn't like the film itself, they enjoyed Ana de Armas' performance. I disagree. This could have a lot to do with the writing but Armas portrays Marilyn Monroe as this ditsy bimbo, wracked with sorrow at every waking moment. Her performance feels very two-dimensional and her Cuban accent slips through a few times as well. I suppose there is an added layer of difficulty when you are playing a historical figure instead of a fictional character but nevertheless I was disappointed by her portrayal.

The biggest problem people had with Blonde was the exploitative nature of the film. Marilyn Monroe was someone who was brutalized by the film industry to the point where it literally killed her. Her life was a glamorous tragedy, and she stands as a shining example of what show business can do to a young woman like her. Of Course, Monroe isn't here to give permission to Andrew Dominik and company, so as a replacement, the film team went to her grave to ask her ghost for permission.

Seriously.

After this year's Venice Film Festival, Ana de Armas told AnOther magazine that the entire cast and crew wrote a big card for Monroe, placed it on her grave and asked her ghost for permission to make the film. De Armas stated "Everyone felt a huge responsibility, and we were very aware of the side of the story we were going to tell — the story of Norma Jeane, the person behind this character, Marilyn Monroe. Who was she really?" Many viewers argued that it would be much better to let her rest instead of displaying her trauma in a $22 million dollar production. The film wastes absolutely no time telling you about Monroe's traumatic life. Within the first ten minutes we witness her schizophrenic mother try to drown her and by the twenty minute mark she had already been raped. The writing puts a lot of focus on Monroe's lack of a father figure growing up and kind of pins her lost, unstable psyche on that, which is insulting. Marilyn Monroe reportedly had an IQ score of 168, well above genius level, yet Blonde portrays her as a crumbling mess, unable to support herself mentally, always letting her emotions get the best of her and not having a shred of independence. It's a downright offensive portrayal, all of her good qualities are seemingly stripped away in favor of telling a more tragic story. There was so much more to Marilyn Monroe than exploitation and sorrow but you would never know that after seeing Blonde.

Despite the cast and crew's best efforts (aka talking to a ghost) Blonde still manages to be an exploitative mess of a film that dehumanizes its subject and soils the legacy of Marilyn Monroe. In hindsight, there isn't a single aspect that works. The editing is bizarre, the performances range from bland to insulting, and the writing is some of the worst of this decade so far. Why is Blonde failing so miserably? It's simple, we've moved past the need for these exploitative biopics. Audiences are starting to look past the glamour of Hollywood and are placing more emphasis on morality in the film industry.

Hopefully, Marilyn Monroe is able to rest in peace from now on, and with luck we won't get another biopic like Blonde again.

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