Andrew Dominik directs Ana De Armas, Julianne Nicholson and Bobby Cannavale in this fictionalised biopic of Marilyn Monroe’s private life – the abuse, trauma and delusions that destroyed her.
I’ve loved every feature Dominik has made until now. This is fifty miles of bad road though. Exhausting, dangerous, gonna leave you obliterated. I think that is the overriding intention of what Dominik and De Armas wanted to achieve. If so, Blonde is bang on target but that doesn’t mean it will be particularly rewatchable. Like last year’s Spencer, this is a powerhouse acting turn from an unmannered modern screen beauty in an abrasive maximalist film. She probably should win Best Actress at the Oscars in spring… she won’t. This ain’t no Oscar bait, heavy formula, biopic.
Scenes are lengthy, tragedy is lingered on clinically. Norma Jean’s childhood is an inferno of loneliness, poverty and mania. The five star sequence that opens the story is worthy of Kubrick in its patience and precision. A fantastic Julianne Nicholson driving her vulnerable daughter into a Hollywood Hills forest fire feels so far from the cookie cutter hardship prologues of say Ray… or The Jerk.
This is filmmaking from another planet. The precision recreation of Marilyn’s iconic big screen and tabloid moments are done with uncanny authenticity. But the length of the beast, the nihilism of the intent is exhausting. There are definitely elements that are off putting. Warren Ellis and Nick Cave’s score is intrusive.The framing of certain sexual acts is laughably awkward. The parade of CGI foetuses is leaned into with ever diminishing returns. I don’t give a toot about factual accuracy. This is a descent – closer to Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me or Mulholland Dr. than Bohemian Rhapsody or Chaplin. Nearly all the scenes of sex and nudity have a nightmarish quality. Alien pornography… pummelling vulnerability. For a NC-17 full of gorgeous flesh I reckon some teenagers are going to have some very challenging wanks to this. Best of luck to them. I can’t see myself putting myself through this three hour emotional meat grinder again any time soon but I do admire the rare craft and meaty flavour of it all. A work of uncomfortable vision.
Perfect Double Bill: Don’t Bother To Knock (1952)
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We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/