Blonde Review — Marilyn Monroe Exploited Further in Fiction

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Lisa Johnson Mandell’s Blonde review says that this fictional take on the life and times of Marilyn Monroe plays dark and dirty with the beloved American icon, although Ana de Armas in the lede role is a true revelation.

Blonde reviewIn preparation to the film Blonde, I started to read the source material, Joyce Carol Oates’ critically acclaimed ‘Blonde: A Novel.’ Published in 2000, it was highly praised in literary circles. But I found it impossible to get through the 748 page tome.

It was one ugly, abusive scene after another, so dark I had to keep reminding myself, “This is fiction, and most of these terrible things really didn’t really happen to Marilyn Monroe. The are figments of Oates (disturbed?) imagination.”

It left me to wonder, “why would anyone make up and spread these types of violent, warped, heinous details?”

I hoped the movie version couldn’t possibly sink to such depths, especially with the radiant Ana De Armas in the title role. But about a minute in, I found I was being painfully delusional.

This two hour, 46 minute long film is the cinematic equivalent of the 748 page novel, containing a ceaseless chain of violence, abuse and assault. We see Marilyn as no more than a tragic victim, with not even a hint of  strength, intelligence, respect, love or joy.

In the beginning we see her mother trying to drown her in a bathtub, and possibly incinerate her in a fire, before she’s unceremoniously dropped off at an orphanage.

Then it’s a fast forward to pin-up girl, followed by her grueling climb to super stardom, via exploitation, abuse, drug addiction, multiple rapes and abortions, the latter via an awkward womb cam that clumsily tries to demonstrate how she felt inside.

It’s a wise choice to present it more as an artistic vision of a fever dream, perhaps a nightmare. It switches from focused to blurred, black and white to color, silent to scored—it even randomly changes formats, giving it an arthouse feeling.

This way, hopefully viewers will realize it’s an interpretation, a prevarication, rather than a factual biography of the legendary Marilyn Monroe. No one who has ever walked the earth deserves be reduced to the this and nothing more.

Blonde review — Ana de Armas

For all its shortcomings, the film’s one great strength is the magnificent performance by de Armas, whose multi-layered portrayal keeps you focused on a film that you may have otherwise walked out on.

Be assured that her Marilyn voice is flawless, and their are no traces of the accent you may have noticed in the trailer. She embodies Monroe from start to finish. And because of her poignant yearning vulnerability you feel even worse for the ill-fated star.

In the end, I find it both disturbing and unfair that both author Joyce Carol Oates and director Andrew Dominik chose to reduce Marilyn Monroe to little more than a tragic victim. No victim, no human being, wants to be defined by the fabricated worst parts of her life.

To what possible effect have they invented and depicted these egregious incidents? These decisions appear to be exploitative in and of themselves, which is a very odd and disengenuous way to draw attention to the exploitation of an American icon.

Rated NC-17

2 Hours 46 Minutes

If, after reading this Blonde review, you’re still eager to see it, it will ru in theaters through September 28, when it will premiere on Netflix. If you’re going to see it, I’d definitely recommend streaming it.

Lisa Johnson Mandell’s Blonde review says that this fictional take on the life and times of Marilyn Monroe plays dark and dirty with the beloved American icon, although Ana de Armas in the lede role is a true revelation.

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and seen on Rotten Tomatoes. She recently founded the new lifestyle website, where celebrities and experts share their 5 favorite things in the fields of entertainment, lifestyle, wellness, home and food & drink.


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