Cast: Ana de Armas, Julianne Nicholson, Scoot McNairy
Crew: Andrew Dominik (Director)
If you have seen and enjoyed "Lost Highway," "Requiem for a dream," "Ed Wood," "Bad lieutenant," or "Dead man," you may appreciate Blonde's efforts, good intentions, artistry, and creative bearing. The film's lush visuals help create the glittering atmosphere that sets Norma Jean apart from the legend of Marilyn, and also help build her character and portray her inner conflicts. In this sense, the film is a 10 and a must-see.
First and foremost, this film itself is based on Joyce Carol Oates´ eponymous novel and not on the real events surrounding Marilyn´s life. The main (and partial) takes on the book are built upon the idea of the dissociation between the Norma Jean persona and her reaction against the alienation caused by the Marilyn character. Eventually this conflict led to the development of a drug and alcohol abuse induced schizophrenia primarily based on an unresolved "Electra complex" and the fatal possibility of a genetic psychiatric disorder. These are set as the main plot drivers.
In my opinion, these views make sense, as they were the usual suspects behind most official and unofficial Marilyn hagiographies, which largely ignored the realities of the Hollywood "star system" and the intricacies of the film production industry. Before and until Blonde, Marilyn's biography was mostly presented as a woman- oriented subject, and her historiography was shaped according to the supposed "taste of the times" of the targeted readership.
In this fashion, the script and story treatment went through development brainstorming, and the story may have received some unnecessary additional notes that intruded on the film's plot and significantly altered its final quality, leaving too many lightly touched or unresolved issues that would have been right in a series show, but not in this feature film as it was presented. Note that my objections are purely technical and not ideological.
To portray Norma Jean as an alienated, hopelessly macho victim rather than as an intelligent, transcendent, ambitious, and empowered escape artist is both a technical and an ideological choice. From an ideological perspective, the question is which is more representative of modern views of femininity and psychology, the pseudo-macho, condescending view of her as a mental case or the victim of contemporary vices and mores who happens to be a repressed, gifted child? This is an important question, because on one hand the film could've worked and on the other it didn't. And to the trained eye, the clues are there to be seen...
The producers and storytelling creatives failed to notice the inconsistencies of the hagiographies that influenced the novel, and the novel itself, and most of the glossy psychological interpretations now considered obsolete and thinly simmered through our contemporary accepted notions of femxplotaition and me-too crowd appeasement.
"Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good deeds"... and here is where the film fails somehow. Storytelling creatives and producers should have stepped in to cut short the pseudo-feministic pity potted take on Marilyn-Norma´s character and take advantage of and reinforce the story possibilities and excellent acting, photography, editing, directing and technical qualities of the film that do not stand obviously ruined, but fairly weakened.
Which is a pity given that the film's technical values are astounding, falling short of a masterpiece. As mentioned, had the production executives and broadcasters kept away from the mainstream victimization and focused more on Marilyn's obvious escapism, sophisticated intelligence, and empowering, female boundary-challenging energy associated with her iconic poses, the film might've worked differently.
There is such a stark contrast between the elaborate visual proposal, the finely accomplished "mise-en-scene", and those clumsy recurring fetus shots that is almost an insult to intelligence. How on earth did those skipped producer´s supervision or get approval at the creative discussion table? They ruined the whole proposal and turned a good film into a visually stunning but highly pretentious lost case.
Take away the almost pro-life fetus shots, the lost dramatic chance to cash on Marilyn´s intelligence and feminine power to introduce non pity potted story counterpoints to further retain audience attention, the clumsy development and story production management and you still have A BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF CINEMATIC FINE ART.
My personal Ratings:
Cast and acting, Ana de Armas absolutely nail it and Adrien Brody keeps perfectly to his role, give them a 10. Rest of the cast fairly on par, special mention to Julianne Nicholson´s outstanding act...
Direction, Andrew Dominik, I don´t know how he got the director part, with a bigger director portfolio he may not have been so bold and daring with the elaborate visual proposition, that´s one of the good takes. On the other hand maybe a more experienced director may have stood his ground more firmly (especially being also the writer) against distributors and producer execs BS that ultimately tarnished an excellent proposal. 6 and a half.
Screenplay, also by Andrew Dominik, a failing proposition well plotted, should have been corrected by producers and execs, not strictly his fault as writer. 7 and half.
Photography, by Chayse Irvin. ASC. (Remember this name) Hats off. It´s a 10.
Editing, by Adam Robinson. Outstanding, complex and seamless work. 9 out of 10.
Music, by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, one of the winning sets of this film, astonishing. 10
Technical Production 8.5
Conceptual production and development 4.5
Overall film scores 6.5 out of 10
Must see? YES