‘Blonde’ is sad and creepy, not Marilyn for everyone

Somewhere half way blonde actress Ana de Armas, who plays Marilyn Monroe, looks into the camera and says, “What have you got to do with my life?”

It’s a question for Monroe’s then-husband, the playwright Arthur Miller. But it is also a question for us, the viewer. Why are we still interested in her sixty years after her death—suicide from an overdose of tranquilizers, or murdered for her relationship with the Kennedy brothers? Is it voyeurism, disaster tourism or something deeper, more incomprehensible?

Director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) in his very freely factual film biography of the actress, sex symbol and icon gives dozens of incentives to answer that question. The simplest summary: because she was a phenomenon who, because of her tragic life and death, but also because of the great corpus of films she left behind, remained burned into our retinas forever. Monroe as the holy trinity of the innocent girl Norma Jeane as she was born, the sex goddess who created Hollywood and something beyond that.

That mystery is bigger than any label this or any other movie tries to put on her. Niagara, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch, Some Like it Hot – they are all films that belong to our cultural capital. Without Marilyn there would be no Madonna, no Lady Gaga, no discourse on stereotypes, beauty ideals and victimhood.

Ana de Armas is hypnotic. she is the uncanny valley of all Marilyn performers. If you put pictures of her in blonde next to that of the historical Marilyn, she is more Marilyn than Marilyn ever was. This is Oscar material. But you only have to watch a very small film clip of the real Marilyn to realize that her attraction is greater than ten. Blondes can reproduce.

Read also an interview with Andrew Dominik, Ana de Armas and Adrien Brody on ‘Blonde’

Dominik was inspired for his film by the eponymous fictional biography of Joyce Carol Oates from 2000. This resulted in a fascinating eclectic whirlwind of fragments from Marilyn’s life. A Finnegans Wake about Hollywood’s myth machine, nightmare and fever dream. A cinematographic tour de force too, in colour, black and white and all kinds of film formats, filmed from all possible perspectives. Shots from her vagina during abortion and miscarriage scenes and a talking fetus have already sparked controversy. When the promotional circus for the film got underway in May of this year, Dominik promised that there would be something in the film for everyone to shock. And he kept his word.

In addition, Dominiks blonde a deconstructed Freudian manual. The trauma of Marilyn’s mentally ill mother and absent father is in every scene. In Dominik’s screenplay, she emphatically calls each man ‘Daddy’. It’s sad and creepy at the same time.

The perfidious and perverse Hollywood that Dominik portrays is #MeToo avant la lettre. Her makeup artist Whitey is not only the one who transforms her from woman to phenomenon time and time again, but also the one with a whole arsenal of pills in his makeup case. The moment Marilyn is dragged out of JFK’s room as an unconscious sex doll, all you can do is cry.

Leave a Comment