‘Blonde’ highlights fascination with Marilyn Monroe like no other

What a dream it must be to be Marilyn Monroe. “Everyone would give their right arm to be you!” Monroe’s starstruck assistant tells him. And that sentiment still holds true, after 60 years since the glamorous star’s death, there’s still a kind of madness around her that remains. Watch the wild talk surrounding “Blonde,” an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional portrayal of the Hollywood star that has yet to be seen by the general public.

There was some intrigue surrounding its NC-17 rating and the reasons for its long delay in release – it was filmed before the pandemic. There was curiosity about its star, Ana de Armas, and her native Cuban accent creeping into the trailer. Meanwhile, its director Andrew Dominik, who has been trying to make this movie for over a decade, called it a masterpiece.

“Blonde” received a rousing reception at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, but reactions from film critics were mixed. Some like Dominik’s treatment. Others wondered if it was exploitation. The New Yorker even called it “A grave wrong done to the woman it claims to honor.” It’s not much different from the responses to Oates’ 2000 novel. Or even the discussion around the tamer “My Week With Marilyn,” which earned Michelle Williams an Oscar nomination for her performance. But they all raise questions about our own relationship with Monroe, what we owe her and what we still demand of her.

Dominik, for his part, has read many reviews. In some ways, he said, the positive and negative reactions speak to his success. Like it or not, “Blonde,” which hits Netflix September 28, doesn’t want you to feel good about what happened to Monroe.

“The movie is a horror movie,” Dominik said earlier this week. “It’s meant to be an all-out assault. It’s a howl of pain. It’s an expression of rage.”

“Blonde” takes viewers on a surreal journey through Norma Jeane Baker’s short life, from her childhood with a single mother with schizophrenia (Julianne Nicholson) to her superficial Hollywood successes as Marilyn Monroe. He reflects on his marriages to baseball star Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) and playwright Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), his addiction, his abuse and assault, his abortions, his miscarriage and his death, at age 36, d an overdose of barbiturates.

There are great recreations of iconic movie moments, from ‘Gentleman Prefer Blondes’ and ‘The Seven Year Itch’, and classic animated photos, but all are done with a twist. A glamorous red carpet turns into a sinister phantasmagoria of gaping jaws and gaping mouths. The subway grid moment is a prelude to domestic violence. Even a seemingly sweet photo of her and DiMaggio takes on new meaning.

A combination photo shows Adrien Brody with Ana de Armas in ‘Blonde’ and Arthur Miller with Marilyn Monroe after their wedding ceremony in White Plains, New York, U.S., June 29, 1956. (AP Photo)

For Dominik, his film is the opposite of exploitation.

Exploitation happily performs a song like “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” with a “wink and nod,” he said. But, he shrugged, “People like to be offended.”

“The main relationship in the film is between the viewer and her,” Dominik said. “I’ve never made a film that tells me more about the viewer than this one.”

What it is not, he says, is a commentary on Roe v. Wade, or something as simplistic as “dad” issues, although Norma Jeane calls both of her husbands that. It’s about an unwanted child and a woman going through the process of making an industrial film. And the real test for Dominik will come when global Netflix audiences can watch it.

It’s a moment many people have been waiting for, but perhaps none more so than de Armas, who finished work on “Blonde” in 2019. Her raw and vulnerable performance was widely praised, even to the most negative reviews. .

It was a demanding nine-week shoot after a year of preparation, during which she also worked on other films. Her first day on set took place in the apartment where Norma Jeane lived with her mother – a nightmarish sequence in which she saves a baby from the dresser drawer she was locked in as a baby, while the place was burning around her. Her second day on set was her visit to her mother in the mental hospital, where she got to speak as Marilyn for the first time on camera. It was quite an icebreaker, she said.

Although she was not an actress who stayed in character after the day was over, living with the emotions, the character and filming in the places where Marilyn lived, ate, worked and even died, it was “impossible not to not feel heavy and sad”. she says. Even so, she counts “Blonde” as one of the best moments she’s ever had on set.

“I trust what we’ve done,” de Armas said. “I like this film.”

Everyone around her was also stunned by the performance. Brody said he left the set the first day feeling like he had actually worked with Monroe.

“She’s so iconic and it’s so hard for someone to interpret,” Brody said. “What did she give to be so vulnerable and so brave?” This is not something to be taken lightly.

Monroe’s paradox is that no one seems able to honor her in exactly the right way – or so everyone thinks. To adore her beauty and her glamor is to deny her person. To rejoice in her acting skills is to ignore her depths and her desire to be a serious actress. Ignoring your trauma is naive, but leaning into it is unpleasant. Although most people seem to agree that it was scary for Hugh Hefner to brag about buying the crypt next to his own.

But the madness survived. This spring even saw two major Marilyn moments, first with Kim Kardashian wearing her crystal-embellished nude gown to the Met Gala, then a week later when someone paid $195 million for “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol, making it the most expensive work by an American artist ever sold at auction.

“She’s kind of a rescue fantasy for a lot of people,” Dominik said. “You see that in some of the negative reactions to the movie. It’s like they love Ana and they kind of hate the movie for putting Ana, putting the poor character through what she’s going through. But I think that it’s an expression of the film’s success, in a way.”

He continued, “There’s something very difficult about her as a character because she’s a person who had everything the media constantly tells us is desirable. She was famous, beautiful. She had an amazing job. She went out with the so called guys And she killed herself So what is everyone running to Why are they all running to this It challenges our ideas of what constitutes a good life on the American dream.

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Robert M. Larson