Blonde wallows in the most tragic aspects of Marilyn Monroe’s life
If you believe Blonde, Marilyn Monroe never had a moment’s happiness in her all-too-short life.
Not that you should believe Blonde, featuring an Oscar-nominated performance by Ana de Armas as the indisputably tragic bombshell.
Though it draws from true, well-chronicled events, many of them caught on camera, Blonde is not a biopic. Rather, the NC-17-rated movie is based on the best-selling 2000 novel of the same name by Joyce Carole Oates, who described the work as “a radically distilled ‘life’ in the form of fiction.”
“It’s a dream film about Marilyn Monroe,” writer-director Andrew Dominik explained in a Netflix interview. “It’s about the image as much as the person. She’s grappling with, and we’re grappling with, the image of her life.”
It’s unlikely anyone is sitting down these days to watch or read about Monroe expecting a feel-good story. But Blonde is trauma on parade, the horrors of her life cranked up to 11 as the film plumbs the ways the consistently underrated actress was exploited, violated and abused while simultaneously becoming one of the most enduring stars in Hollywood history.
But such was the point the source material was trying to make.
“Dominik has captured the disjointed and distorted hallucinatory reality of the novel with an unflinching feminist eye—nothing sentimental here, nothing ‘feel good,'” Oates wrote in an essay included with Blonde’s production notes, “but something much more valuable, and deserving of respect in the vast collective mind of popular culture: a true, raw, painfully honest being, an exposed soul, not a pop star entertainer but one of us, transformed.”
Knowing she hadn’t signed up for a fairy tale, De Armas called getting to play Monroe “a gift,” telling The Hollywood Reporter at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, “She was all I thought about. She was all I dreamed about. She was all I could talk about. She was with me. And it was beautiful.”
And to her credit, Monroe is certainly all we could think about as well after watching Blonde. Here we’ve untangled the real from the “radically distilled.”
Did Marilyn Monroe Ever Know Who Her Father Was?
Blonde: The gaping wound in Marilyn Monroe’s life is her father’s absence. Norma Jeane Mortensen’s soon-to-be-institutionalized mother Gladys Baker (played by Julianne Nicholson) tells her that her dad is a powerful man in the motion picture business. The star is never able to enjoy watching her films for fear this man—whoever he is—would mistake his daughter for the bombshell on screen. She also breathily calls husbands Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller “daddy,” her tone veering between intimate affection and delusion, her go-to state being a little girl desperate for love and approval.
Once she’s a full-fledged movie star, she starts receiving letters from someone claiming to be her father. Finding out that one of her former lovers was sending the letters all along is a final blow as her life skids to its premature end on Aug. 4, 1962.
Her romance with young Chaplin ended when he found Monroe tucked into bed with his brother Sydney, but they remained close friends for the rest of her life, James told Goddess author Summers.
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