evilbjork’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is an exploitative, aimless, and incredibly uncomfortable mess. It's three hours of meandering scenes that either frame Marilyn Monroe as a whore or a helpless victim. It's a fictional film but that really doesn't mean much considering it's still trying to tell her life story. Calling itself fictional is basically an excuse to sensationalize her story and avoid criticism based on how different Marilyn is in this compared to who she was in real life.
This film takes a lot of liberties with Marilyn's story and basically all of them are shocking bad decisions. They changed her caring mom into a schizophrenic psycho, her abusive dad into an absent father she longs for, and John F Kennedy into a violent rapist. All the characters feel wooden, more like watching cardboard cutouts propped next to each other than actors. There's no charisma, character development, excitement, or any human energy to speak of. Ana de Armas, for as great of an actress she is, couldn't bring any life into this terribly written caricature of Marilyn.
Marilyn Monroe only has two states of being through this entire film: either a voiceless robot watching as things happen to her or a helpless crying victim. Over the course of the entire nearly three-hour run time she has no agency to speak of. Hardly anything about Marilyn as a person is explored in any way. There's nothing about who she was, what she liked, what her aspirations were, what her accomplishments were, who her friends were, or even why she liked any of the men she married. Nearly the entire film's plot is structured around the men she was married to rather than her, and yet even them and their relationships feel glossed over.
This film is offensively exploitative, misogynistic, out of date, and pure male gaze, but the cherry on top is how even what the film is trying to say is completely empty. This is a pseudo-intellectual take on how Hollywood, paparazzi, and the media can take away a celebrity's agency, and this film mainly explores that idea by being a perfect example of that. Even the tag line is "WATCHED BY ALL, SEEN BY NONE." This feels idiotic considering the film makes no effort to represent her in a realistic light or show all of the people who actually did know her and discuss what she was like other than her abusive partners.
Ana de Armas did the best she could do with what she was given but I mainly felt sad for her because of how much she put into this film and how much she was forced to go through for such a terrible outcome. It's depressing. Her acting is amazing, but in context knowing how awful and dumb each scene is makes her performance work much less effectively. Armas deserves better.
I've liked other films by Andrew Dominik, and this is visually beautiful at times, but he needs to never write another film script again. After what he's said regarding Marilyn I feel even more uncomfortable with his entire perspective on her and confused by why he would even want to make this. It doesn't feel like there was any love, passion, or hope put into this movie. It feels like cheap exploitation that could have been about any woman. It feels like torture porn, like rape porn, or like porn in general. It's gross, emotionless, substanceless.