Blonde Movie: What Is It Really About? | Marilyn Monroe Biopic

Blonde, a movie about Marilyn Monroe by director Andrew Dominik and starring Ana de Armas as Monroe herself, hit the screens earlier this year – but it is not necessarily what it seems. Based on the bestselling book of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde isn’t your run-of-the-mill biography; the author herself, in fact, said that the story should not be regarded as such. Instead, both the book and the film are a reimagined take on the life of Norma Jeane and her superstar alter ego, Marilyn Monroe. But does this make the story closer to the ‘truth’ of Monroe’s life, or is it further removed from it? We take a look below to find out what the film Blonde is really trying to impart to its audiences and its critical reception upon release.

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Blonde Movie: Inside the Mind of an Icon

Despite its precision attention to detail in terms of period elements and props, Blonde is almost entirely concerned with portraying the inner world of Marilyn Monroe. What made her tick, for example, and how far did her desires align with Norma Jeane’s?

As such, the film should be regarded as fictional. The story is, ultimately, Oates’ attempt at putting a subjective emphasis on an icon who was (often brutally) objectified within the industry in which she worked.

While this means that Blonde is not a standard biopic, it feels authentic; even if the experiences weren’t entirely Marilyn’s, they could well represent the experience of being at the center of a voyeuristic, celebrity-worshiping culture. And the psychological fallout that’s likely to be the result.

Blonde as Gothic Melodrama

Some critics have positioned Blonde as a horror movie, or gothic melodrama, due to its disturbing imagery and depictions of the harrowing experiences that Monroe was subjected to. The film begins by showing Norma Jeane as a child and tells a hellish story of her upbringing, detailing her mother’s attempts to drown her in a scalding bath and the lifelong impact of her missing father.

One of the most chilling scenes in the film depicts Norma Jeane, bereft, waiting for Marilyn Monroe’s persona to possess her in order to be able to face the studio lights. The transformation we witness, from a traumatized young woman to a be-masked icon, is eerie and reminiscent of the best psychological thrillers – the type that stays with you for a very long time.

Blonde Movie’s Soundtrack

Critical to the film’s ambiance and complex, shifting moods is its soundtrack: Blonde is scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Ambient electronica and acoustic themes weave through the story, creating both cohesion and adding to a sense of fragmentation. Consider using royalty-free music if you’re looking for a similar effect in a video you’re producing. You may be surprised by the sheer range of tracks available and the affordability of this option.

Blonde Movie: The Price of Fame

At its heart, Blonde is a film about fame and the ramifications for those caught in its spotlight. It makes uncomfortable viewing: not least because, as viewers, the movie hints that, as a society, we need to acknowledge our collective responsibility and the price we all (star and audience members alike) pay for this industry-fuelled voyeurism.

There are some obvious parallels with the late Diana Princess of Wales. Critics have already drawn comparisons between this movie and the earlier Spencer, directed by Pablo Larrain, which explored this fellow icon’s inner life.

Blonde Movie: Fact or Fiction?

Blonde Movie: Characters and Events

The movie Blonde, and the book it’s based on, are open about the fact that it shouldn’t be regarded as a documentary reflecting actual events. Its emphasis is on its protagonist’s inner world rather than the external one.

This has left audiences somewhat confused: with its precision attention to detail in terms of costumes, and backdrops, and its faithful duplication of famous stills and short videos, where does fact end and fiction begin?

The Affair

The best example is Monroe’s connection with Charlie Chaplin Jr and Edward G Robinson Jr. While the star was known to be friends with the pair – and is thought to have dated both men over the years – the film amplifies this connection to a three-way love affair. There is no evidence that this was the case in real life. 

Miscarriages

Similarly, while it’s known that Monroe suffered several miscarriages during her marriage to the playwright Arthur Miller, the abortion she undergoes in Blonde has no known basis in reality. 

Murder Attempt

And while there is no factual basis for the scene in which Monroe’s mother attempts to drown her daughter, Monroe did speak privately of being abused by her mother when she was young.

Characters and Events

The vast majority of the characters in the film ARE based on real people – although how they act is widely a conjecture. The movie also takes extreme care to faithfully recreate many iconic scenes from Monroe’s career – from the legendary white dress-air vent moment to the Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend routine to stills taken from her dressing room of the star preparing to take to the stage. The attention to detail is exceptional.

Ana de Armas has spoken of how such authenticity was achieved, detailing how she required extensive coaching to perfectly capture Monroe’s facial expressions and needed to separate the star’s performances into different elements (face, voice, movements). Each of which she learned by heart before bringing all of these facets together in her performance.

Blonde Movie: Critical Reception

Blonde caused consternation among critics and audience members alike, although Ana de Armas’ performance in the starring role has received universal acclaim. On the written portrayal of Monroe, however, things become polarized. While many people found the direction and screenplay a refreshing take on the traditional biopic form and a powerful insight into the mind of one of the world’s greatest icons, others cited it as exploitative and guilty of removing any agency (erroneously) from Monroe herself.

Brad Pitt co-produced Blonde through his Plan B company and has spoken of the movie’s ten-year journey to the screen. He praises the film for its beauty and the exceptional talent of its leading lady.

The movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 2022, where it was nominated for the Golden Lion Award.

Blonde Movie: Shining a Light on a Legend

Like it or loathe it – and there will be very few sitting on the fence – Blonde offers a different perspective on both Monroe and the price of fame in general. There are moments in the film that showcase Monroe’s keen intelligence and perception, which is not usually given anywhere near as much credence as her platinum locks and red-lipped smile.

The movie is also keen to explore the extent to which the demands of the Monroe persona overtook Norma Jeane’s own hopes and dreams, like that of having a baby. Again, the scenes relating to this are powerful and challenging to watch.

The extent to which Blonde adds to the legend of Monroe is uncertain. However, its beautiful cinematography and unique storytelling make it a must-see for anyone interested in the personal and societal effects of a celebrity-obsessed culture.

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