Blonde ★★

Critic Mark Kermode recently described Blonde as a full-blown "horror film" instead of a traditional biopic, so I could sort of understand what Blonde was shaping up to be: an ambitious and powerful fictionalized recount of the life of world-famous actress Norma Jean, AKA Marilyn Monroe. Well, we all have our bad judgments, right?

Blonde is unfortunately not a great horror film anyway. It is, simply put, dreadfully boring and nauseatingly cruel. It never lets up on pummeling the viewer with tragic scene after tragic scene--oh wait, tragedy has no place here since that implies a character flaw of which Norma Jean written here has no such thing, unless you somehow call being a victim of endless torment a flaw. Ana de Armas has some real talent as an actress, but I didn't find anything special about her performance that you can't find in hundreds of tortured female roles across cinema's history, and done with far greater nuance. Now, this film isn't completely incompetent; Andrew Dominik has a credible history and there are some genuinely inspired filmmaking techniques, from some memorable editing to the cinematography (such as one shot that focuses out of Norma to several rows of flora which made me audibly gasp). That said, it rings hollow in such an unforgiving experience. What’s the point?

Also worth noting, Nick Cave & Warren Ellis' musical score is genuinely the brightest spot of the film. Too good for this picture.

Then, there's the abuse. Not to go into detail--I'd rather not if I do say so myself--it doesn't exactly paint the rapists and abusers as saints or anything, but it all just mushes together into misery porn with little purpose. Films have approached sexual and physical abuse with greater care and sensitivity in the past, so there's no excuse as to why this couldn't have.

If you've followed me on Letterboxd in the past week, you may have seen that I have recently viewed a truly magnificent experimental biopic, played exclusively by actual Barbie dolls, entitled Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, by Todd Haynes. It's available for free on YouTube and about 45 minutes long. It's infinitely more intelligent and careful with its depictions of abuse and psychological pain. Please focus your energy on praising that much more competent and beautiful work of art instead.

Or just watch Elvis again.

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