Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on October 8, 2022 @ tonymacklin.net.
Blonde is a soap opera without the soap.
Blonde was "written for the screen and directed" by Andrew Dominik, adapting a novel by Joyce Carol Oates. In her novel, Oates focuses on the abuse Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe experienced in her career and personal life. It's a slapdash treatment with innuendo and invention among the random facts.
Oates and Dominik use Norma Jeane's commitment to finding her lost father as her overwhelming motivation throughout her life. It is factual that she did seek a reunion with him, so it's not a red herring. Dominik uses it more as a blonde herring.
Sensitivity is not Dominik's strong point. Garishness is.
Amidst a mediocre cast, Ana de Armas is extraordinary as Marilyn. She possesses the glow Marilyn Monroe exhibited on screen. The transformation from the undistinguished woman in The Gray Man (2022) to Marilyn is remarkable. She makes the wounded vulnerability of her character plausible. Ana de Armas transcends the film with her credible humanity.
The other character who is given some humanity is Arthur Miller portrayed by Adrien Brody.
The rest of the cast is basically one-dimensional, particularly Julianne Nicholson as Norma Jeane's mother. She's a wacky shrew of a mother. No humanity there.
Bobby Carnnavale is a raving Joe DiMaggio.
There have been many books written about Marilyn Monroe. She has been a figure of some mystery. That is one of her enduring qualities. Dominik tries to trample the mystery.
Many of those who see Blonde will be robbed of the mystery and have it replaced with vulgarity.
In 1973 Norman Mailer published Marilyn: A Biography with his intense infatuation with Monroe as sex symbol. In 1986 feminist Gloria Steinem published Marilyn: Norma Jeane, which gave a respectful reevaluation of Monroe.
But Oates and Dominik shake that respect. They go down a dark, destructive path.
Blonde is a film for 2022. This is an era where facts don't matter, the "evidence" is twisted, and the film lets loose a maelstrom of misinformation.
Many people who see the film today will think Marilyn was in a menage a trois with Charlie Chaplin, Jr. and Eddy Robinson, Jr. The film shows it. But it's invented by the craven imaginations of the writers.
Most of us know that Marilyn sang, "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in Madison Square Garden to JFK in 1962. The film only shows a 5-minute segment of a supine JFK (Caspar Phillipson). Marilyn is giving a different oral rendition. So much for a relationship. But that's the film.
In the film the initial meeting with Arthur Miller takes place at an audition when she reads for one of his plays. It never happened. And on and on.
The film takes us into Norma Jeane's mind and invents things she does and says.
Let Joyce Carol Oates and Andrew Dominik speak for Marilyn Monroe?
I think not.