Netflix has a well documented history of releasing subpar streaming original films. Their latest undertaking is a biopic titled ‘Blonde’ which focuses on the Hollywood icon of the 20th century, Marilyn Monroe. The film first debuted at the Venice Film Festival. It was then released in a limited number of theaters across the U.S only to arrive on Netflix a few days afterward. Unfortunately, ‘Blonde’ can be added to that list of lackluster Netflix original features, albeit for drastically different reasons.
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The film never ceases to remind audiences of what must have surely been an unbearable life for the subject it focuses on. However, as it is nearly three hours long, the film itself becomes unbearable very quickly and does not need its lengthy run time to repulse the viewer. This is not to say that the film has no redeeming qualities. There are certainly impactful elements to it. But whatever positive traits the film does have are unfortunately not enough to salvage its egregious and intolerable lack of self awareness demonstrated by its overindulgent brutality, gratuitously flashy style, and overall mirky narrative.
— Hollywood Insider (@Hollywdinsdr) September 30, 2022
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Ana de Armas Gives A Performance For The Ages
The entire supporting cast, consisting of Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Evan Williams, Xavier Samuel, and Julianne Nicholson all played their respective characters relatively well and effectively. But lead actress, Ana de Armas, gives not only an amazing performance, but perhaps one of the greatest displays of acting in years. It would take a long period of time to try and remember a better performance in a worse movie. For one thing, Ana de Armas really stepped into Norma Jean’s (Marilyn Monroe’s given birth name) shoes and actualize the merciless pain the blonde bombshell endure from everything that happened to her. How de Armas is able to smoothly and seamlessly transition between these two states of mind to the point to where it would be impossible for those behind the camera to suspect anything to be upsetting her is something maybe no other actor may ever accomplish again.
But de Armas’ performance in the film especially deserves praise for this very significant reason. The character is almost always experiencing some kind of emotional or physical distress in nearly every scene in the film, so one would expect an actor taking on a role like this to eventually burn out and become creatively drained or exhausted at a certain point. That was not the case here, as de Armas found a way to make it feel as if each moment was the character’s first. In fact, she arguably got even stronger in the role as the film progressed. If this film does not cement de Armas as one of the most talented actresses working in the business today, nothing will.
And Then There’s Everything Else – Unintentionally Horror Genre, Intentionally Horrific
It is worth restating what most have already said about the film: yes, this movie is relentlessly graphic and gut-wrenchingly unsettling. Anyone who does end up deciding to click “Play” on the film would be sensible to have a couch pillow close at hand or anything to bury your face into for anything too uncomfortable to watch. I ended up doing just that. A lot. From the very first scene, you know that this won’t be an easy viewing experience. What was not expected was that nearly every scene would be off-putting in some fashion. It really can’t be overstated just how graphic this film is. To be clear, having a significant amount of aggressive material in your film or series isn’t a problem in itself, as long as it is there to serve the story. Here, the intentions of director Andrew Dominik are to demonstrate just how traumatic Marilyn Monroe’s life really was. However, the audience was able to discern this fairly quickly and did not need to be repeatedly pounded over the head with scene after scene after scene of sheer dehumanization of its protagonist. It felt as if the film got way too carried away with the subject of Marilyn Monroe’s undoubtedly tragic life and simply went off the rails with its brutality simply because it could.
The film also jumps back and forth between black and white and color. This did not feel jarring, thankfully, but it did not feel necessary either. Initially, it seemed as if the scenes with Norma Jean were color and those with Marilyn Monroe were black and white. If that ended up being the case, then perhaps the shifts back and forth may have had a place. However, later there were black and white scenes with Norma Jean and color with Marilyn Monroe, so they ultimately made little sense and felt included to simply let the film appear artsy and thought provoking in its messaging. In that sense, the film failed.
A Missed Opportunity
The film could have been a well crafted biopic around a figure with an absolutely heartbreaking life. Had the film materialized an actual story about the hefty price of fame, and kept its focus on a character who gets punished simply for things that happen to her beyond her control, we would have gotten a decent film. This character is extremely easy for the audience to sympathize with. The ingredients were here. They just needed to be mixed together smoothly. Hopefully, we’ll eventually get another Marilyn Monroe biopic that can do just that.
Cast: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Evan Williams, Xavier Samuel, Julianne Nicholson
Written by: Andrew Dominik, Joyce Carol Oates (based on the book written by)
Directed by: Andrew Dominik
By Nader Chamas
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Nader Chamas is an aspiring television writer who seeks to fuse thought provoking progressive ideals into the films, shows, and stories that he loves. Having graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Screenwriting, Nader seeks to use his writing to advance causes that do not get enough attention or input across mainstream media. Like most, Nader has his own share of his favorite franchises and stories across pop culture. However, he seeks to contribute timely and relevant topics into these stories as well as in his own original material. This is why Nader’s analysis of popular films and tv shows matches The Hollywood Insider’s practice of discussing entertainment from a socially cognizant and critical perspective.