Dave Lee’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've been expressing my disdain for this movie for the best part of two years. I'm an enormous fan of Marilyn who has watched all her movies, devoured all the major documentaries, and read all the major biographies. I’ve visited her resting place and paid my respects to the woman who has been so influential to me. The fact that Hollywood was adapting Blonde AGAIN rubbed me up the wrong way from the start.
Oates' original novel is trashy and defamatory - mixing real-life history with invented trash-rag worthy moments. Historians have spent more than two decades trying to rectify the damage the book did to Marilyn’s legacy... with many longheld "rumours" and fake "facts" stemming directly from it. I was worried that Dominik's film would completely undo all this work that was done to set the record straight.
Regardless, I was assured this film would not add to the damage. That the film was, instead, a highly respectful take that would break down the idea of celebrity worship, sexuality, exploitation, and the duality of Marilyn and Norma Jean. I wanted to go in with an open mind. And I tried.
That said... The movie is not what I expected... it's far, far worse.
Dominik's film, as expected, completely re-does the damage Oates' book did to Marilyn's legacy - and adds to it enormously. Not only by bringing it to the masses (a MUCH larger audience than the book could have ever had), but doubling down on the trash.
This is a movie that has NO INTEREST in respectfully breaking down its subject, or exploring her true person and personality. Instead, it aims to hyper-fixate on her traumas and the way everyone around her saw her and abused her. In effect, the movie abuses, traumatises her, sexualises her, and exploits her all over again.
The movie has NO INTEREST in depicting her true life - instead acting as a 3-hour slideshow of Marilyn's most traumatic moments, while adding a million sprinkles of "elaboration" along the way, and the dazzling (quite honestly, this is a beautiful looking movie) lens of Dominik. Imagine your life — full of heartache, pain, and trauma is re-enacted callously and remorselessly on the big screen. Re-enacted for the masses to gawk at once again. The cherry on top being the scores of fictional traumatic "moments" that are made up just for the fun of it.
This is a movie that has no sympathy, remorse, or respect for Marilyn. It's exploitative, heavily sexualised, and traumatic in itself. It makes no effort to distinguish the fact from fiction (I can assure you, the more *confronting* and *scandalous* moments are not true), and in fact blurs the line SO MUCH that it's sure to either leave audiences confused, or convinced that this is the real story. My biggest fear of it all. It does not even give audiences the benefit of a "hey guys, this movie is fictional" content warning or disclaimer at the beginning of the movie - simply relying on general audiences to read the synopsis on Netflix's landing page for this CRUCIAL information instead (and we all know we can't rely on that.)
The movie makes no effort to side with Marilyn, and in fact relishes in her trauma. Yes, the rumours you've heard of vaginal POV shots, shocking (fabricated) sexual abuse scenes, and horrifically triggering sequences which are set in-utero are entirely true. The movie simply does not shine any positive light on Marilyn. It does not show her happy moments, her attempts to find light, or her many achievements. It simply paints her as a piece of meat, a sexual object - it abuses, and traumatises her all over again. It downplays her intelligence (as the people in her life did), and finds time to even mock and laugh at her. The WORST part is... it even gaslights the audience into thinking that maybe it was all deserved and that... 'oh hey, maybe this broad was crazy after all?'
DeArmas is wonderful in the role - but one can't help but feel she's been exploited in the process too. The things she had to do here must have been rolling. And I simply cannot think of any reason she needed to be topless THAT much, or why the sex abuse scenes needed to be SO graphic.
It’s very clear Dominik doesn’t give two shits about Marilyn, her legacy, or the perspective he leaves audiences with at the end. He also seemingly has no care for his audience either. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. So many tried to assure me that his take was to be tasteful, and FOR Norma Jean. It is not. His interview pieces surrounding the film confirmed just as much (in one he refers to ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ as a movie about “well dressed whores,” suggests that no one even watched Marilyn's movies any more, and asks "why does it matter?" when asked what damage his film could leave on her legacy. "It's just a movie about Marilyn Monroe" he smugly and arrogantly retorts.) I've also just discovered the film's final sequence of despair was filmed at her actual house in Brentwood, with the very last moments, which "glamorously" depicts her suicide, filmed in the actual bedroom she passed away in.
This movie has not only left me annoyed, but angry, upset, and traumatised. I'm brimming with emotions. I cried at the very end. Not just as a Marilyn fan, but as a human. No being deserves this despicable treatment. Imagine your life being depicted this way on film. Imagine continuing to be abused and used sixty years after your death - WITH your death re-enacted in its ACTUAL location. (Hollywood would find it far too disrespectful to make a biopic like this about Robin Williams in 50 years time, filmed in actual locations. But, Marilyn is a woman, and is fair game, I guess.) I guess this was Dominik's aim... to make some kind of morbid point? I don't even know.
I’m not against biopics if they’re respectfully done. And I still hold hope that ONE DAY someone will make a respectful, truthful, heart-felt, and respectful biopic on the gorgeous, glamorous, eventful, accomplished, and yes, often sorrowful, life of Norma Jean.
'Blonde' is not that. It is a callous movie that’s 30% depiction of real trauma and 70% depiction of fabricated traumatic moments. This is an absolutely despicable, miserable, and cruel picture. It is easily the worst I have ever watched in my entire life. Nothing will ever top this.
If I could leave 0 stars with it actually contributing to the score, I would.