Saturday 11 March 2023

Movie Review: Blonde (2022)

Genre: Biographical Drama
Director: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson
Running Time: 166 minutes

Synopsis: In Los Angeles of the 1930s, a young Norma Jean Baker grows up without a father. She is raised by her unstable mother Gladys (Julianne Nicholson), who is eventually institutionalized. By the 1950s, Norma Jean is finding some success under the name Marilyn Monroe as a magazine model and in minor movie roles. Stunningly beautiful, she is soon elevated to a leading actress and becomes a sex symbol, and in her private life embarks on a polyamorous relationship. Fame, fortune, and a couple of high profile marriages follow, but Norma Jean is unprepared for the celebrity life, and is always haunted by her traumatic childhood.

What Works Well: The mélange of facts and imaginations does not hold back, writer and director Andrew Dominik (adapting the Joyce Carol Oates book) mixing oodles of style with an often harrowing story of loneliness, self-doubt, loss, and abuse. The mix of aspect ratios and colour/black and white cinematography achieves a hypnotic representation of a tumultuous life. Ana de Armas fully invests in the role, recreating some of Monroe's most famous celebrity moments for a lost-in-Hollywood portrait where screen personas consume reality.

What Does Not Work Well: Monroe's fixation on her missing father is allowed to dominate, and eventually becomes a tiresome device. The running time is inexcusably long, and despite the bloat, several characters emerge suddenly around Marilyn with neither an introduction nor context. Bobby Cannavale (as Joe DiMaggio) and Adrien Brody (as Arthur Miller) are reduced to stock representations, joining all other supporting characters in failing to leave a sustained imprint.

Conclusion: A suitably messy depiction of one fragile woman forced to deal with inhumane pressure unleashed by public lust.

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