Blonde ★★★★★

There’s one scene in Blonde where Ana de Armas—after already spending the entire portion of the film preceding it as an astounding dupe—looks so exactly like Marilyn Monroe that it is completely impossible to tell if it’s an actor or the real woman herself. You’d recognize her, you think. You’ve seen her millions of times in your lifetime already. But as the camera pans in, you realize it’s merely a clever trick. That’s what Marilyn Monroe’s entire existence is to the public at large, after all: a silhouette that looks like someone but can never unveil the being behind its murky, soft outlines. She’s a story retold so many times it has become legend—fodder for the world to pick apart as they see fit. A career and life and legacy and estate to continue to desecrate over and over again, until there’s nothing left but microscopic pieces to pick up to put together, trying to find the right spot for each one.

For all its merit, Blonde continues that pattern. It mines all of the existing knowledge of Monroe’s trauma to try to create a picture that’s a little more clear, all while knowing that no such thing can or will ever truly exist. Some may find it exploitative and crude—some may even feel it’s downright cruel (the beginning made me a little sick)—but Blonde never endorses the terror it sometimes depicts. I’m not sure it’s even trying to find a way through it. Blonde just wants to preserve the record of what did while asking what if. It’s the most gut-wrenching horror film that you’ll see all year, and one of the most beautiful, too. It also boasts some of the most compelling and ferocious acting I’ve ever seen onscreen, along with my favorite film score of the decade so far and the most breathtaking, remarkable cinematography you’ll see in a theater all year. What a marvel, what a tragedy.

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