Blonde by Andrew Dominik is a successful film because it is not a biography. Blonde, which stars Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, spans Marilyn’s life from her early years until her passing, although Dominik dramatically distorts the truth. Viewers are made to feel that Marilyn is a victim of her unfortunate fate and that, despite her skill, she never stood a hope of surviving by the film’s closing scene.
Blonde, based on Joyce Carol Oates’ best-selling book of the same name, has split audiences with its speculative portrayal of Marilyn. Some claim Dominik misrepresents Marilyn by emphasizing her most traumatic private experiences over her many professional achievements. Dominik spends over three hours focusing on Marilyn’s mistreatment while hardly mentioning the events that helped advance her career, such as when she announced the creation of her own production business in 1955. Blonde has a contentious NC-17 rating and includes violent and sexually explicit sequences, further alienating fans with its bleak outlook.
Blonde seeks to shock, and Dominik succeeds in subverting the biography, a normally bland genre that serves as idolatry of fame, in interesting ways. With its grim portrayal of Marilyn, Blonde violates viewers’ expectations and makes them question why they watch movies about famous people in the first place, especially those like Marilyn whose lives were cut short. Blonde is a daring anti-biopic that succeeds when viewed as a cinematic experiment that offers commentary on the effects of celebrity rather than as an accurate portrayal of Marilyn Monroe’s life.
Blonde often alters aspect ratios while switching between black and white and color inside the same scene. In contrast to traditional biopics, these formal procedures forgo total immersion. Dominik frequently points out that spectators are taking in a manufactured work of art. De Armas’ meta performance also adds to the distance whenever she addresses the camera directly or, in some cases, when she doesn’t try to hide her Cuban accent while speaking as Marilyn.
Blonde purposefully steers clear of parodying Marilyn’s classic moments in order to further unsettle audiences. Instead, viewers are made to confront Marilyn’s celebrity drawbacks. Dominik portrays the damaging consequences of Marilyn Monroe’s great success. She was one of the biggest movie stars and passed away at the early age of 36. For instance, Dominik’s staging of the well-known sequence from The Seven Year Itch (1955) in which Marilyn’s white dress is blown above her thighs and her body is shown plays like unsettling terror. Dominik switches to a group of guys staring at Marilyn from a distance while an obviously frightened Marilyn attempts to maintain an act of amusement.
Another sequence at the conclusion features Dominik physically skipping ahead to the 1959 film premiere of Some Like it Hot, which marked the pinnacle of Marilyn’s acting career. Dominik doesn’t peddle easy-to-digest nostalgia like more recent biopics like Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) or Judy (2019). While the Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody’s climax features the rock band’s stirring Live Aid concert and Judy’s shows a victorious Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to a packed house, Blonde deprives viewers of a happy conclusion by focusing on Marilyn’s agony.
Blonde deconstructs the biopic, which all too frequently exalts celebrity culture without critical analysis, by refusing to revel in celebration. Dominik deserves praise for having the audacity to be original, despite making some contentious creative decisions. He invites audiences to think about why they are so fascinated to Marilyn’s life and whether she paid a price for their never-ending interest rather than making another feel-good movie about an adored icon.