Blonde ★★½

What Blonde excels in the musical score and Ana de Armas’ awards-worthy performance, it relishes in the demise of its own subject’s agency with both on- and off-screen contempt from director Andrew Dominik. 

Blonde opens in a promising beginning with a stunning duo of Julianne Nicholson and newcomer Lily Fisher; however, we also already begin to see glimpses of the exploitative nature of the film with the already handing Norma Jeane tragedy and abuse straight from the get-go in a burning Los Angeles. At this point, we also already have the potential of beautiful cinematography ruined by the constant aspect ratio and color changes that occur for seemingly no reason other than to be messy. After being tricked to going to and dragged into an orphanage, we then see adult Marilyn go from a poster girl to her first rape in the film. By this point, you get that this won’t be the end of the trauma collecting. In fact, the beginning is just the beginning!

For the first half of the film, despite the already exploitative nature, it is still a somewhat solid film that can be entertained through the campy messiness of it all. However, you still get the point that every man is out to get Norma with her two boyfriends predictably having this underlining nature to end up turning on her despite her own love for these two. But is it actually love or is this Dominik’s way to tell us that she’s blind to the manipulation for the sake of being seen? That she’s somehow at fault for what’s to come of her between these two boys? However, the love seems to be going well for Norma until she has to battle between the decision to get an abortion for her iconic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes role. It’s at this point where the film really takes its nose dive. We get to the abortion scene and it’s almost like a plot point that you’d imagine to be in the God’s Not Dead franchise. Norma is regretting having an abortion and tries to stop it to only fall on the deaf ears of the evil abortion doctors. Cut to the sequence of Miss Marilyn in a fiery hell for this decision.

From this point on, we see what feels like extensive punishment and continuous trauma building where we have consistent abuse in the form of physicality with Joe DiMaggio and emotional manipulation with the so-called father in the letters she’s given that gives her false promises in what is also predictably her ex-boyfriends. There’s also the daddy-fictation of Norma’s vocabulary and the constant male gaze of the always topless Marilyn. Dominik’s focus on Marilyn’s undergarments during the famous air vent in a way to critique the male gaze to only be an ironic shining example of the male gaze itself. The one positive relationship she does have with a man is with Arthur for which of course it is emphasized that she ruined due to her own grief from the talking fetus that died in a miscarriage for what is portrayed as punishment for her previous abortion. The film’s pro-life agenda is very apparent. From this point on she self-sabotages thanks to the help of her “friend” who cheers her up but with the help of supplying her drugs to continue her downward spiral.

To top it off, we have the uncomfortable and disgusting JFK rape sequence + Norma finding out that the daddy that’s been wanting to meet her for years despite stringing her along does not exist. To manufacture this encounter and moments for the sake of baity trauma creation is a prime example of why Dominik and writer Joyce Carol Oates are a match made in hell. Throughout this movie, we are shown a woman who has absolutely no agency in her life or career, only disdain for said career and nothing of her own passion for acting whilst being an eternal victim with grotesque fantasies created to represent her life.

Despite all of this, Ana de Armas still shines through with the most stunning performance of the year so far. If only this were a different movie, Ana would’ve probably collected her awards trophies but instead she decided to give it her all for a script and a movie (albeit quite obviously for an Oscar) that continues to rape and defile Marilyn Monroe past her grave.

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