Blonde ★★★

I watched the overly long biopic Blonde in two halves. After seeing the first half, I was a bit flummoxed by the vitriolic reactions buzzing around the internet like strung out wasps. Sure, the film was disturbing, but the source material is disturbing historical fiction, and if anyone could be used as a symbolic representation of the hordes of women abused by producers, politicians, and paparazzi, it’s Marilyn Monroe.  

The other Joyce Carol Oate’s adaptation I’ve seen (Smooth Talk) is excellentso I was rooting for this film to be successful, too. Ana de Armas and Adrian Brody give strong performances, and Chayse Irvin’s cinematography is impressive. Marilyn in motion slowed down, sped up, then slowed down again. The film jumping from black and white to color and back to black again. Shots veering from sharply focused, to gauzy and wobbly, and back again. These aesthetic choices reinforce the meaning of the fleeting anecdotes more frequently than they distract from them.

Unfortunately, the second half of the film is kinda misery porn-ish. There are still moments I like, but when I’m watching strung out Marilyn for long stretches of a film I’m already two and a half hours into, it does get old. There is one scene towards the end that would easily fit into a horror film, though, and the way the scene is lit cranks up the creepy to eleven.

The outsized reactions to Andrew Garland’s Men this year made me determined to avoid reading all the seething reviews Blonde seemed to be quickly accumulating. In the end, Blonde has far less to grab onto than Men, although it’s good to see another director going for it. There are a lot of safe, mediocre movies out there, and they’re swarming around us like salivating photographers at Marilyn’s movie premiers.

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