Sarah’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the most controversial films of the year, and perhaps the decade thus far, Blonde provides a fictional portrait of Norma Jeane which goes too far in its brutal, emotionally visceral and sometimes meaningful portrayals of the inherent abuse of stardom.
From its inception, discourse raged on as to whether the film is ethical. I can say confidently that it is one of the best made unethical biopics I have seen. Chayse Irvin's cinematography highlights the horror of a million eyes fixating on your body. The score melts one's heart, bringing them closer to the turmoil of Norma Jeane. Sadly, the acting leaves much to be desired, but De Armas properly brings both figures to life in a dream-like performance. As much as I praise these elements, I must damn the film for a long runtime and relentless fascination with iconography over a genuine portrait.
I do not judge biopics on accuracy, and I don't even judge this film as a biopic, as it is based by the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name. It is explicitly fictional (although the marketing hid this fact). What I am looking for in this film is a thorough exploration of how stardom harms a person. I do not mind that it includes upsetting depictions of abuse, as I tend to find solace in such depictions. The issue here is a) it is unethical to push those portrayals on a real person with no estate to stand up for her and especially someone who has become nearly nothing more than a commodity post-life. B) The film takes such little time exploring the character herself. She is a passive object in the film that abuse happens to so that we may understand the impact of abuse. However, because she is so passive we rarely get a greater glimpse at that impact aside from how it impacts her suicidal tendencies (even this is shown at a surface level). Perhaps my indifference towards the film largely comes from how tiring it gets. Towards the end, you find yourself bombarded with images of abuse and anti-abortion messaging (some of which is against forced abortions, some seems generally against the concept) that you beg for the end credits screen to release you. Again, I think this is a technical tour-de-force, but thematically it reinforces the flat image of Monroe, as we get little insight to her as a character.
I am not saying we needed accurate information. Biopics are not educational documents. I just wanted to genuinely feel touched by the character of Monroe. Blonde is only interested in her general conception, which can only go so far.