September 28, 2022

Gentlemen Do Not Prefer “Blonde” (Review)

I was not necessarily excited to see Blonde, but I was certainly intrigued. I’d be hesitant to label this fictionalized take on the life of Marilyn Monroe, starring the sensational Ana de Armas, adapted from a controversial but well-regarded novel by Joyce Carol Oates as a recipe for success, but it got me into a theater seat, and thats enough for me.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Needless to say, Blonde has very quickly proven to be one of the most divisive films of the year. It’s highly experimental, constantly changing aspect ratios and color presentation, in addition to moving fluidly through time in an effort to show us as much of Marilyn Monroe’s tragically short life as they possibly can. And, perhaps for the first time in my budding film criticism career, I’m not using the vaguely-defined term “experimental” as a compliment. I can recognize and appreciate the artistic vision, but what’s actually on the screen never manifests in anything meaningful in terms of the actual story, which lacks the critical element of care. We’re supposed to care about Marilyn Monroe (oftentimes referred to in Blonde by her birth name, Norma Jeane) simply because of who she is as an iconic cultural figure — and if that isn’t enough, we’ll throw some explicit sexual trauma in there to make you feel even worse about it.

Another thing you may have heard about Blonde is that it’s the first streaming-exclusive film to be rated NC-17. I’m fully convinced that it was for promotional reasons (people are talking about it), because the rating gave me fully unrealistic expectations of what to expect. What it shows us is disturbing — perhaps research specific trigger warnings before watching — but there’s nothing there that I wouldn’t expect to see in a traditional R-rated biopic fare.

I won’t pretend that I understood everything that Blonde showed me. There are motifs and symbols that I couldn’t possibly place or track  and maybe that reflects badly on me — but there’s a difference between trusting your audience and assaulting their senses with out-of-place imagery with no real application to what we’re supposed to be paying attention to.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Above all else, I was uncomfortable and very nearly disgusted. I won’t discredit the intentions of anyone behind the scenes, but Blonde felt like nothing other than an exploitative depiction of an icon who has gone through sixty years of post-mortem sexualization, heaped on with everything else that happened when she was alive. Ana de Armas is fantastic, but I sure wish she got something to do in every single scene other than cry about something that happened to Marilyn off-camera.

There are those that will love Blonde, and those that will hate it. Id love to say that the experience of seeing it in a theater with a very Marilyn-friendly crowd enhanced my enjoyment, but I would be betraying my sacred oath as a purveyor of film criticism. It has its moments of visually appealing filmmaking and an uneven collection of genuinely grounded performances, but everything surrounding it is chaotic and unpleasant to the point of groan-worthy disappointment.

Image courtesy of Netflix

Blonde is streaming on Netflix.

1 comment:

  1. It was very chaotic and disturbing not what I hoped it would be.