Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Blonde is based on a novel of the same name written by American author Joyce Carol Oates. It’s a fictionalised story inspired by the life and career of the infamous Hollywood bombshell Marilyn Monroe. Blonde is the first NC-17-rated film to become available via a streaming service (Netflix). Although Oates has reiterated that the novel is a work of fiction and should not be considered a biography of Monroe, it is challenging to differentiate where fact and myth end. The novel is 775 pages long and was nominated as a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. I suppose this backs up that old saying that sex sells. Be that as it may, the film adaptation has managed to ruffle more than a few feathers and sparked some less-than-flattering reviews worldwide. And here’s why.
Firstly, Blonde’s runtime is a whopping 2 hours and 47 minutes. The film is shot from a black-and-white perspective shifting into colour. It projects a lot of psychological juxta positioning and symbolism. The physical vessel represented by Monroe’s body is treated with a lack of respect, leading to inner emotional turmoil and corruption of the mind. The exaggeration and embellishment of Monroe’s trauma and life tragedies are not something for the faint of heart. Some of the sequences are just straight-up disconcerting and visceral to the viewer. The combination of cinematography and graphic sequences gives the impression of a long nightmare hellscape.
There is no subtlety to how the characters are named. Any audience that is going in to see this film with prior knowledge of Monroe’s biography may get a bit messed up mentally. I know that I was! The studio’s big boss, aptly named Mr. Z, is meant to represent 20th Century Fox’s head executive Daryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck was known to host private casting sessions in his office for upcoming Hollywood ingenues. What happened behind closed doors ushered in an era of gross sexual misconduct within the film industry towards women by men in powerful studio positions taking advantage of their status.
The Ex-Athlete (Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio) was known to be a tad bit controlling and possibly abusive to Marilyn during their tumultuous marriage. There are witnesses from the cast and crew of one of Monroe’s most remembered movies The Seven Year Itch who can corroborate an incident where DiMaggio got so upset about the now infamous publicity stunt that was the scene involving the breeze from the underground New York subway blowing up her white dress that it resulted in physical abuse which left marks on her arms. Monroe told the crew that she screamed for someone to come and help her, but no one was able to hear her because of the thickness of the hotel room walls. For reference, you can check out the Netflix documentary The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (2022). How is this fiction?
The film’s casting of Cuban actress Ana de Armas raised more than a few eyebrows. Although we can see the actress’s dedication to her role, it wasn’t enough to distract the viewer from the disturbing execution of storytelling.
Marilyn Monroe was a myth. There was so much of her private life that was kept away from the public. And over the years, research released by biographers points towards the fact she searched for a father figure in powerful men throughout her life. This was a fact, not fiction. What the novel and ultimately the film did was to project Monroe’s real-life circumstances into a scandalous dramatisation worthy of the filthiest gossip columns. It is vampirism of the worst sort using a celebrity’s controversial life as inspiration. Especially when they are no longer around to even defend themselves or see the effect or ramifications that the content may have on their legacy. It is easy to see why audiences had such a negative reaction to the film.
It is exploitation at its worst that does no justice to Monroe’s memory and the film doesn’t evoke any other feelings other than depression, disgust, and abject horror. My curiosity got the better of me and I read some excerpts from the Blonde novel to achieve the best objective for my review. That turned out to be a huge mistake on my path. It is even more graphic than the film and just managed to intensify my negative feelings towards this type of storytelling.
There are no benefits to be gained coming out of it. There is no underlying angle or profound metaphor to be learned from this gross display. It’s not even art. Way better to watch the many documentaries out there about Monroe and you’ll come away feeling more satisfied and less dirty. Dark Alice over and out.
Score: 3 out of 10
Have you seen Blonde? What did you think of it? And you can check out better biographical drama content below:
Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. Read More