I belong to a women’s film club, and this evening half a dozen of us were available to watch Blonde together in a theatre. This is the newly released NC-17 rated film about Marilyn Monroe based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates. It runs two hours and 45 minutes, and you should plan on a delicious treat for afterwards—we went out for supper—because it is a hard, depressing watch.
Blonde’s screenplay was written and directed by 55-year-old New Zealander Andrew Dominik and I suspect Dominik has been exposed to more pornography than I have because 34-year-old Ana de Armas, who plays Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe, not only appears nearly naked too often but there are also very uncomfortable close-ups of her fellating a man (John F. Kennedy, played by Caspar Phillipson).
This is not the only scene female viewers may find difficult to watch. Others include an early scene in which a woman tries to drown her little girl (Norma Jeane), the president of a film company rapes Monroe during an audition, Monroe’s traumatic abortions and her lover (JFK) treats her like a prostitute. The domestic violence is handled more adroitly (i.e. mostly suggested rather than shown).
Creepiness abounds in Blonde. For instance, Monroe calls her husbands (Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller) “daddy.” Moreover, she is repeatedly debased. She is called a dirty slut, a whore, etc.—but also a prude.
If Joyce Carol Oates’ aim, with her novel—I haven’t read it—was to shine a spotlight on how terribly the men in Marilyn Monroe’s life treated her, then it is a success. Monroe is portrayed as damaged, fragile and vulnerable and men’s blameworthy behaviour is portrayed disapprovingly.
Ana de Armas’ accent is somewhat distracting (she’s Cuban). Monroe’s first husband is left out, as is her trip to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. Still, the cinematography is remarkable and all in all, I found it worth a viewing.
Copyright © 2022 Alline Cormier