Review of the Marilyn Monroe saga starring Ana de Armas

What is the dream, what is the reality, and who is Norma Jeane really? After the screening of Andrew Dominic’s movie,blonde“Once you pick up your smartphone or tablet and scroll through Wikipedia & Co. until you get an idea of ​​who Marilyn Monroe or Norma Jean actually was, you end up in this exact gray area, Joyce Carol Oates She summed it up in her award-winning and critically acclaimed novel “Blond”. Director Andrew Dominic (“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) has worked for more than 11 years to achieve the explosive adaptation. Now it “blonde” There is likely to be one of the most controversial and debatable films to be released in 2022. The fact that the film will be consumed by most viewers by the time it hits Netflix is ​​a chapter in itself anyway.

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“I want you to love me”

Constrained in an art object: Ana de Armas (right) as Marilyn Monroe Photo: Netflix

Dominic locates the central trauma and at the same time the inner conflict between the fictional character Marilyn Monroe and the private character Norma Jeanne in the childhood of the main character: Norma Jeanne was born on June 1, 1926 at Los Angeles General Hospital. Baby Gladys Pearl Mortensen or her maiden name Monroe For a long time, young Norma Jane knew nothing of her other father. In one of the central sequences in the first half of the film, Gladys shows her daughter a photo of her presumed father: as a 2001 DNA test proved, Charles Stanley Gifford, Norma Jeane’s boss at the time. For the first few years, Norma Jeane was raised in a sheltered family with a foster family, but they did not appear in the film. Instead, Dominic “jumps” straight to the next bit of childhood trauma: In the midst of a wildfire ravaging Los Angeles, Gladys confronts her daughter about the fact that she’s responsible for the loss of the man in her life — and ultimately about her mental decline. While ash doesn’t literally just rain from the sky in Los Angeles, the fictional character Marilyn Monroe was born. Daenerys Targaryen will be more than pleased with this fiery renaissance.

But without a dragon breathing fire up her sleeve, it’s not that easy for a nondescript and shy girl without a father or mother in the patriarchal art world. Marilyn Monroe started out as a popular photo model and later discovered as an actress – Dominic shows more clearly what it means in the pre-MeToo era. Her transformation into a screen icon progressed: When she signed her first major fixed-term contract with Columbia Pictures in March 1948, one of the conditions was that she bleach her hair more. Dominic also omits these details in his filmography, although the process of physical transformation into Marilyn Monroe appears to have already been completed, the desire and desire to be recognized as a special Norma Jeanne is greater than ever.

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”

blonde picks
Marilyn Monroe dazzles the audience Photo: Netflix

From here, so to speak, begins the central narrative part of Andrew Dominic’s “Blond”, which proceeds largely in chronological order and also runs through some of the biographical cornerstones of Monroe’s life, but at the same time advances narratively in a very fragmented way. Stylistically, the whole thing is somewhat reminiscent of Pablo Larren’s “Spencer” or “Jackie”: again and again Dominic streaks with impressions, sequences of dreams and memories, which are then immediately subordinated to the larger narrative flow of images. Dominic has already impressively shown that he has a wonderful sense of beauty and visual language in “Jesse James’s Murder of Coward Robert Ford” and his Nick Cave documentaries, but in “Blond” it turns out even better: between grainy black and – white sequences, different image formats and sequences Chromatic, a common thread that runs through it again and again, which is mainly connected with the inner life of the protagonist. The atmospheric background music by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis is also great. The fact that this visually brilliant “art movie” will be consumed by a large portion of its audience on the laptop screen with a Netflix rating is actually a slap in the face for all movie fans.

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But back to the movie: Ana de Armas is the beating heart and soul of “Blond”. As impressive as Dominic was technically in his movie, without the lead actress “Blond” it would have been a great two-and-a-half hour promo at an art gallery. De Armas does everything to revive the inner discord between artistic and private character (even if, of course, the boundaries between originality and art are once again shaky). When she screams at the end of the movie and scratches her flawless face with her fingernails, when the short facade crumbles into the mirror, when she’s having a brief moment of sexual gratification, it is above all else Ana de Armas, Norma Jean, or more often than not giving Marilyn Monroe a real face. Any criticism of the actress’s possible accent is actually just further evidence of the fans’ semi-toxic love for Marilyn Monroe and the legend that surrounds her.

“Every child needs da da da daddy”

Blonde Ana de Armas
Anna de Armas features Marilyn Monroe / Norma Jean Photo: Netflix

“Blond” is also controversial in terms of content, above all because it greatly downplays Marylin and Jeane’s duality of the father complex and their unfulfilled desire to have children. It seems uncomfortable when de Armas continues to address her future partner Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody) as “daddy” or when she finally returns to that in the miscarriage sequence, in which a brief glimpse of her fetus is revealed repeatedly (headlight) centered. On the contrary, this does not mean that “Blond” has nothing to say in terms of content: first of all, the factory of Hollywood dreams was set on fire and demolished. Men’s grimaces, the male gaze, violence, sexual exploitation, the embodiment of the actress: all these are the elements of content that Dominic throws at us with full force and integrates into his skilful performance.

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One could have wished for more ‘Norma Jean’ anyway. Because in the end “Blond” does not quite succeed in avoiding what it really wants to show: because Dominik shows us Norma Jeane above all in the field of tension that men, films and other influences have, we see the person far away so rarely, that Joyce Carol Oates wanted to portray her in Her novel “Blond”. In Dominic’s movie, Monroe looks like a superhero who can no longer take off her costume because “father’s problems” and an unfulfilled desire to have children make him relate to her almost like superglue. “Blond” shows Ana de Armas naked and barefoot, but very rarely what he actually intended to show.

“Blond” is expected to start on April 28. September 2022 exclusively on Netflix. We saw the film at the Venice International Film Festival. You can watch a trailer for the movie here:

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