Joe Harrison’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Assassination of “The Real” Norma Jean by “The Myth” Marilyn Monroe.
Fame is a curse; a nightmarish possession that splits you into two separate beings. While we like to think of that split in terms of “The Real” and “The Myth”, the truth is that, to us mortals, both beings are fake. One is The Myth, the figurehead of beauty and opulence that is repeated, manipulated and worshipped in culture for all eternity. The other is our imagined version of The Real, an idealised facsimile of a mortal being with flaws and trauma that is as equally worshipped as The Myth, usually as a direct counterpoint to The Myth. The Real grounds The Myth in our world, as that’s what we humans have a tendency to do: take our myths and bring them to our level, either so we can relate to them or burn them down.
What Blonde seems to be going for, albeit occasionally ham-fistedly and pretentiously, is that Norma Jean’s great struggle was for agency over her two split beings. We don’t know who this woman really was, because she’s mortal like us, and no one truly knows another person. In life and in death however, a figure as important to culture, art, society, image and reality as her needs to be defined as something, and she never got to truly choose her own definition. In the end, she is both Norma and Marilyn: two sides of real person, reflecting our own idealised visions of them, both as manufactured as each other.
I can sympathise with the many, many voices on here who absolutely despise this film, and I’m not trying to imply that your feelings aren’t valid or anything, but I would ask one question: Isn’t demanding we stop depicting the tragedies and horrors of Marilyn’s life on screen and keep her image at peace, conjuring only the compassion and happiness of her existence, in of itself robbing her of the agency she so clearly sought after her entire life? I know that sounds somewhat callous, but if Blonde has one point to make, it's that me, you and everyone who watched, produced, wrote and constructed this film don’t know who this woman is. Even when we wish for compassion and joy for her, we’re doing so for an imagined idea of her. She is unknowable because she is a human, cursed to not know who she was either.
A movie out of time, much like its subject. Too atmospheric, aesthetic and abstract to be truly adored by the head, yet too distant, pained and distressingly real to be truly adored by the heart.