Blonde ★★★½

A lot can be said about Netflix’s approach to “content” and even more can be said about the strengths and weaknesses of Andrew Dominik’s Blonde, still I can’t help but appreciate the release of something this bold and the discussion it spurs. I was very affected reading Joyce Carol Oates’ astounding novel about a year ago and going into this film, I was questioning how well it would be able to portray all the inner turmoil you can lay out through text. The answer is that it doesn’t, really, but what the film may lack in nuance and scope Dominik makes up for through a lively and visually creative approach moving between different coloring and frameworks. Not all wild swings work, but it’s a refreshing approach to the biopic-formula.

That is, if this could even be called that. Blonde is a fabricated work of speculative fiction and to me, all the better for it. At its core, this is a deeply tragic story with a very captivating performance by Ana De Armas at its center. The meaty runtime allows for a lot of visual experimentation and fascinating depictions of old Hollywood but also functions as a way to grind you down through exhaustion. Norma Jeane’s desperate attempts at agency is constantly shot down with tragic results, but De Armas makes sure we always feel her will struggling underneath.

Sure, the arguments that Blonde is too focused on misery are certainly valid. This isn’t an all-encompassing biopic, but a film with a very clear angle and being so focused on this mood and approach, Dominik’s film is very emotionally effective. There are moments where I think it veers into unnecessary visual exploitation, but De Armas’ dedication keeps the focus on Jeane’s own struggle.

Truth be told, about 24 hours later I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about Blonde. It’s a dazzling work, emotionally captivating and deeply tragic, but certainly not flawless in its spearheading approach. And that’s fine, I’m sort of glad this makes me so conflicted, because more than just a film on its own, Blonde is a fascinating cultural piece whose content and continuous discussion will live on with me for a long time to come.

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