"Blonde" became available on Netflix Wednesday.
The movie has little narrative thread and focuses on Marilyn Monroe's pain and anguish.
However, Ana de Armas is fantastic.
There have been several movies that have recounted the life of iconic actor Marilyn Monroe, but it's hard to think of one that seems to be so disrespectful towards her than Andrew Dominik's Netflix original "Blonde."
Let me be blunter: The movie is mean toward her.
Monroe became a sex symbol thanks to her "blonde bombshell" performances in movies like 1953's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," 1955's "The Seven Year Itch," and 1959's "Some Like It Hot" before her untimely death at 36 in 1962. If you have little knowledge of her, please do not go into this movie thinking you will find a traditional biopic retelling of her life.
"Blonde," which became available on Netflix Wednesday, is based on the Joyce Carol Oates 2000 novel that highly fictionalized the life of Monroe.
Monroe finds little joy as man after man abuses her
It opens with Monroe during her youth. Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, we follow young Norma Jeane (Lily Fisher) with her mother (Julianne Nicholson) as she begins to go mad and, at one point, tries drowning Norma Jeane in the bathtub. It leads to Norma Jeane being sent to an orphanage.
Monroe's mother in real life was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and Norma Jeane did spend some of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages.
The movie then leaps forward to Norma Jeane on the verge of transforming into Marilyn Monroe, and it marks our first time seeing Ana de Armas in the role.
Following a modeling stint, sometimes nude, Monroe changes her hair to platinum blonde and catches the eye of Hollywood mogul Darryl Zanuck (David Warshofsy), head of 20th Century Fox.
A nervous Monroe is led into Zanuck's office by his secretary who has an unfortunate look towards the aspiring star as she walks her in.
As Monroe speaks, Zanuck says little. He just stands up, bends Monroe over, pulls down her underwear, and begins having sex with her from behind.
The audience had already been through some tough scenes with Monroe's mother's mental breakdown, but this is the first that shows a man abusing Monroe. And it won't be the last.
Now a contract actor at Fox, and an underpaid one at that, Monroe begins her onslaught on Hollywood that would lead to her becoming one of the biggest stars of her time.
But Dominik (who also helmed "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "Killing Them Softly") allows Monroe little pleasure.
Even when she's watching herself on the big screen at a premiere, her joy is interrupted by the creepy male manager sitting beside her, touching her leg. The most joy Monroe experiences in this movie is a threesome she has with Charlie Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edward G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams). A fictionalized event.
Dominik leans in heavily on how the early days of celebrity culture and the industry itself ate up Monroe, which is true. Monroe's amazing looks and, yes, talents were sexed-up to a level that made men want to be with her and women want to be her — leading to stardom that many to this day cannot handle.
But despite the movie being top-notch in everything from its production design, costuming, make-up, and cinematography, Dominik doesn't give the movie much of a narrative thread. It's really just a bunch of scenes one on top of another. The ones that are most jarring are Monroe's interactions with the men in her life, from husband Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) to President John. F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson).
In the movie's most shocking moment (and probably the reason why it has an NC-17 rating), Monroe walks into a hotel room where Kennedy, who is sporting a back brace and speaking on the phone on his bed, almost immediately forces her to give him oral sex.
The most gentle scenes in the movie are when Monroe's third husband, Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), enters her life. But Dominik doesn't even let her enjoy that; instead, this is where the starlet starts to self-destruct.
Ana de Armas is mesmerizing in the movie and deserves an Oscar nomination
While the movie is often agonizing to watch, Ana de Armas is its saving grace.
Known for her recent roles in movies like "Knives Out," "No Time to Die," and "The Gray Man," de Armas gives one of the best performances I've seen this year.
She completely transforms into Monroe, not just in her looks and mannerisms, but also in her voice. Though that has been a point of contention since the movie's trailer came out, I was completely transfixed on every word she delivered.
She is guaranteed an Oscar nomination for her work. It's just a shame most of her performance is filled with pain and anguish.
"Blonde" is now streaming on Netflix.
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