Okay, so truth be told. I watched this a while back and have been sitting on my review for several days now. At first, I really wasn’t sure of what to make of this one. Here we go with yet another biopic of a major star. These things are ten a penny at the moment and are becoming tiresome. Honestly, I really wasn’t in the mood to sit through another biopic and part of me really didn’t want to watch this at all. I kind of went into it with a preconception and a basic idea that I really wasn’t going to enjoy it.
So, I sat it out for a few days, just to see what other people had to say about this. Not critics, not professional reviewers, but just the general consensus from the public. The public really seems to dislike it too. I’ve read articles about viewers switching off after 20 minutes and being ‘horrified’ by the film. It’s been called ‘unwatchable’ and described as being a ‘hate letter’ about Marilyn Monroe. I read these articles and smiled, I’m not alone… even if I don’t necessarily agree with their sentiment.
“A look at the rise to fame and the epic demise of actress Marilyn Monroe, one of the biggest stars in the world.”
That brief synopsis does the job of summing up the film perfectly and still manages to not describe the film as well as it truly deserves. Before I get into the (none spoiler) review proper, this is not a biopic. At least, not in the traditional sense. Blonde is actually based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates. Now, the novel is not a faithful retelling of Marilyn Monroe’s life. The novel is more of a fictional take on Monroe’s life, set within her real life… if that makes any sense? Yes, the events in the book and film happened, but not necessarily as they did in real life. This is fiction with one foot in reality. And it is very important to know this before you get into the film because this is a major factor that a lot of the negative viewers just don’t get.
There is another major factor that you need to keep in mind. As I said, this is not a biopic, this is a straight-up horror film. This is a movie that does not sugarcoat anything. It is a harsh, brutal, vivid and very graphic horror film that is based around a fictional take on Marilyn Monroe’s life. Blonde explores issues such as child abuse and trauma, rape, mental illness and so much more. If you are looking for a nice, flowery flick that paints Monroe as an all-American icon and international mega-star, you’re not going to find that here. Blonde is bleak, it is negative, it is depressing and it is amazing for it too.
There’s a very good reason that Blonde got a controversial NC-17 rating (18 here in the UK), because this is not an easy watch at all. People are being horrified by the film because it is a horror film and a completely unapologetic one too. I’m not going to get into spoilers here, so I do have to be careful with what I do and do not say. But, as no surprise to anyone, Blonde tells the life of Norma Jeane Mortenson (soon to become Marilyn Monroe) from her childhood and right through to her death in 1962 at just 32-years-old. The film explores her meteoric rise from an unknown actress to one of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars at the time. The many men in her life, her insatiable appetite for sex and her many issues that would eventually lead to her questionable death. Again, this is still fiction but set in the very real world of Marilyn Monroe’s life.
Watching Blonde put me more in mind of classic horror flicks such as What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and similar psychological horror films that followed it. Blonde’s writer/director Andrew Dominik has got to have been a fan of similar films too because this really does feel very much like a 1960s horror flick, but with a much more modern edge. Ana de Armas is amazing as Marilyn Monroe and she does not really play Monroe as she was in real life, the performance is more like a perceived version of what Marilyn Monroe was like. This is what I think is rubbing a lot of people up the wrong way. They think they are going to get an accurate Marilyn Monroe biopic. You’re not, you are going to get a deeply disturbing psychological horror with an impossible-to-believe depiction of Marilyn Monroe.
Some of the scenes here are very difficult to watch and I can honestly see how and why people have a lot of issues with what is shown in the film. Still, it does have the high age rating for a very good reason… trust me. Blonde is very graphic in its horror and often hits you in the face with a sledgehammer repeatedly, but it can be amazingly subtle too. This is a film about a person’s life completely crumbling and falling down around them. The fact that person is Marilyn Monroe should be largely irrelevant and once you do get that into your head, the more enjoyable the film is.
As long as you don’t go into this thinking that you are going to watch a sweet Marilyn Monroe biopic and ready yourself for a bleak and graphic horror film, you’re in for a good time. Blonde is brutal and disgusting… but that’s the point, a point that a lot of viewers are massively missing. This film isn’t ‘woke’, far from it. It’s not for all the snowflakes either. I initially went into this not watching to sit through yet another biopic and I came out if it pleasantly surprised because it was exactly what I didn’t want it to be. As the film ended, I felt like I needed a shower. I didn’t have one though, I just watched the film again instead. One of the best films I have seen this year.