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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Blonde (2022)

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I knew this was going to be a drag before I went in, but in a good way, at least. I was prepared for just how long it was, but not prepared for how engaging it would be. What Dominik has achieved here is really quite something. The life and times of the most famous celebrity to have ever lived was always going to be a challenge, but Dominik's idea to show this existence through the eyes of Norma Jean, practically an onlooker herself, due to her upbringing, was maybe out of left field.

Of course, there are elements here that have become common knowledge over the years and have drifted into a kind of accepted truth, although at the time, only Norma Jean would have known, and she wasn't telling. So the opportunity to improvise was clearly essential and, in some cases, even welcomed.

That is not to say that this is over-dramatized. If anything, the opposite is more true than you would reasonably expect from Netflix's often heavy hand and Norma Jean's extended bouts of intense mundanity are well documented. These were brought about not by her fame, but her inability to cope with the persona she had created, ravaging her very essence from within. As if we could watch her over time, a wilting flower in the baking, waterless air, progressively losing herself to her aggressive possessors - the media, Hollywood, powerful moguls and oppressive husbands. And not least, her greatest enemy, Marilyn herself.

In a new, post-war era, the cultural landscape was becoming more free and before reaching the zenith of an unbridled free-for-all in the sixties, this young girl from a very different world and an equally different time burst onto a world more than ready to lasciviously consume her and everything Marilyn stood for. Norma Jean couldn't believe she was that icon for good reason. Because she wasn't. She remained the innocent, often doe-eyed girl that didn't know what the cost would be for her dreams. And come to that, if these were even the dreams Norma Jean wanted in the first place.

Ana De Armas is outstanding as Norma Jean/Monroe. I baulked at the notion when it was first mooted, but there were times I couldn't tell the real from the doppelganger. There are several scenes where Dominik has her literally transform from one to the other in front of our very eyes, which I imagined didn't come without a great deal of practice to perfect. But she nails it every time. Her portrayal may be seen in the future as overly self-referential, even morbid, but it isn't likely, given that we have already consigned 'facts' to history. And if that is true, De Armas couldn't be criticised for it, as this would have almost certainly been directed to her.

Certain scenes have been accused of being a little obscure, not least her internalised conversations with her unborn babies she carries intermittently throughout the running time. Whilst I understand the reasons for it, I am not sure it's quite so obvious to some, which has led to a degree of confusion in certain corners of the internet.

To be fair, this is not for everyone. It is not a puff-piece about an icon. This three hours of internalised endless horror reminded me more of Kristen Stewart in Spencer, another woman in the glare of the public eye, more popular than she could have imagined, and her ultimately futile attempts to maintain her own life, when everyone was clawing at her to obtain a little bit of her, just for themselves. Blonde is five percent joy and ninety-five suffering. Know this before you press play.


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