Ana de Armas gives a knockout performance as Marilyn Monroe in this candid, compelling, boldly styled movie from Andrew Dominik (Killing Them Softly; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). Taking Joyce Carol Oates’ novel as his starting point, Dominik presents a rounded, sympathetic portrait of Norma Jeane, sketching in her troubled childhood and then picking up the story as she begins to get noticed in Hollywood in the early 1950s.
While the industry (and the men who run it) value Monroe for her carnal attributes, we’re left in no doubt that she was a remarkably sensitive actress, emotionally open, but also thoughtful and serious about her work. That almost all of her career would be predicated on playing “Marilyn Monroe” has sometimes obscured this truth, but Norma Jean here is no ditz, even if her psychological scars leave her vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
While Blonde will be available on Netflix soon, Dominik has crafted a work of cinema – indeed this is one of the ambitious and expressive movies of 2022. Switching between colour and black and white, he seamlessly integrates scenes from movies like Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot. It says a lot for de Armas’ performance that these iconic moments don’t undermine an iota of her credibility. (Kudos, too, to the production design, which is extraordinarily authentic.)
Bound to be controversial for its unflinching and upsetting depictions of abortion, miscarriage and drug use, the movie suggests the tragedy of Marilyn Monroe belongs firmly with the deeply entrenched sexism of the era as a whole and the movie industry in particular; stardom becomes a living nightmare.
Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Tracey Landon, Brad Pitt, Scott Robertson
Nick Cave, Warren Ellis