Currently streaming on Netflix from director Andrew Dominik from the Joyce Carol Oates book Blonde is the look at the life of the most recognizable BLONDE in the world.
Norma Jeane Mortenson (Lily Fisher) starts out her life with a mother who has mental issues. Gladys (Julianne Nicholson) puts Norma’s life in danger more than once and all because of what she believes to be true. When a fire breaks out, Gladys does the unthinkable! Driving with Norma in a car going towards the fire telling the police the child’s father lives in the Hollywood Hills.
All of it puts Gladys in a mental institution and Norma going to an orphanage. Skipping ahead to 1940, Marilyn Monroe (Ana de Armas) is slowly getting the attention of Hollywood – and sometimes for the wrong and most depraved reasons. Her relationship with Charles Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edward G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams) makes her feel safe, until her agent tells her to be careful since now the 1953 role in the film Niagara is getting attention.
The problem being, Norma is pregnant and it begins a roller coaster of emotions that make her question her own mental issues. Walking away from Cass and Eddy, she meets Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) who is absolutely infatuated with Marilyn Monroe and proposes. While filming Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, she starts getting letters from someone claiming to be her father.
Joe begins to become violently jealous of the things Norma has done as Marilyn Monroe. After shooting the dress in the windy grate scene from The Seven Year Itch, Joe becomes physically violent and the marriage is over. Soon after, she auditions for the 1955 Broadway play Magda and meets Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody) the playwright. The same thing happens as Miller becomes infatuated with Marilyn Monroe.
Moving to Maine, Norma tries to live the life outside Hollywood and the stage. Thrilled to be pregnant, once again the mental issues come into play when everything goes wrong. The cracks are beginning to show while filming Some Like It Hot and director Billy Wilder is about done with it. Her stress leads to a set doctor continually keeping her medicated.
Soon after, Norma is taken to see JKF in his hotel room. What happens there is more than she can handle because, again, it is about being with Marilyn Monroe the movie star. Returning home she discovers the death of Cass, a gift with a note that sets off an ending the world could never understand.
Ana de Armas makes it clear why she was chosen for the role of Marilyn Monroe. She manages to bring the blonde bombshell to a bit of life with her bleached hair and whispery voice. Was I taken away into this world by her performance? Honestly, occasionally I thought ‘wow, that’s a Marilyn moment’ but other times her voice kept changing and the scenes of nothingness were too long. I didn’t need to spend five minutes of my life watching her tear the house apart for her purse is an example. Then again, on the flip side, she wasn’t given the best material to work with.
Williams as Eddy has finally come into his own for those of us who recognize this actor. In this relationship with Norma/Marilyn, it becomes complicated and a bit vengeful. For those who see a familiarity, Williams was in the hit series VERSAILLES portraying Chevalier. Joining his former castmate is Tygh Runyan who played Fabien Marchal.
Cannavale as DiMaggio was in love with someone who really did not exist. His anger and acts of violence put a bit of a stain on the former beloved baseball player. Cannavale gives DiMaggio the best and worst of a man obsessed. Brody as Miller can play his character in another movie and I’d watch it! Trying to give Norma what she needs while dealing with Marilyn is no easy feat but Brody put in the effort.
Huge shout out to Nicholson as Gladys. Although her role was short, the impact was large and impressive.
Other cast include Toby Huss as Whitey, Ravil Isyanov as Billy Wilder, Catherine Dent as Jean, David Warshofsky as Mr. Z, Michael Masini as Tony Curtis, Caspar Phillipson as JFK, Sara Paxton as Miss Flynn, Rebecca Wisocky as Yvet, Tygh Runyan as Norma Jeane’s Father, Eden Riegel as Esther, Ned Bellamy as Doc Fell, Haley Webb as Brooke and Chris Lemmon as Jack Lemmon.
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BLONDE is not a film for everyone and on so many levels. Personally, after sitting for an extensive period of time watching, wondered what the purpose of making this film was. I suppose being a black and white film that it could be under the guise of artistic. The portrayal by the actors is well done with the material given.
My problem lies with the sadistic, gruesome, misogynistic, drawn-out scenes of rape, talking fetuses and that’s just the beginning of my list. The two-hour and forty minutes dragged on from scene to scene of Norma’s victimization and I had to force myself to continue with it. By the end I felt like a dirty accomplice to those who did the victimizing, like a peeping Thomasina!
Director Dominik gives us nothing more than event after event of horrors to the point of making sure he has put the deep stamp of disgust with the insides of a woman’s body part. In the middle of these acts of terror are flashing cameras and crowds swallowing Norma/Marilyn up time and time again.
This is a film that does not celebrate the life of accomplishments of Norma Jeane and Marilyn Monroe. It is a slaughter of both these women who tried to live in one person.
In the end – watched by all and seen by none!