Blonde REVIEW – Morbid & Morose

Blonde is so unrelentingly bleak that you will find yourself yearning for its conclusion.


Andrew Dominik’s Blonde is adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’ novel of the same name, which is a work of fiction. It functions in the same lane as Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, where the real and the imagined collide. Which begs the question, does a filmmaker have a certain responsibility when it comes to depicting a real life figure on screen, even if the portrayed events are touted as fictional? Many think so, but this isn’t Dominik’s concern. As he mentioned in a recent interview, he isn’t “interested in reality, [he’s] interested in images.”

Blonde’s narrative is built around these real life images of Marilyn, with the film’s aspect ratio and colour scheme changing in accordance to the dimensions and colour of these images. It is an attempt to capture Marilyn’s life visually, and the veracity of these reenacted images make it a startling experience for the viewer as the context is remarkably different. In these images she’s laughing and smiling, radiating such joy and happiness, but in the context of the movie they’re laced with the unhappiness of a woman who didn’t want to be known just for her image and is incredibly unhappy in both her personal and public life.

Blonde is a difficult watch because there’s very little joy, as we’re taken through one tragic scene after the other. Ana de Armas is such a talent, and does well in transitioning between Marilyn’s manufactured joyful facade and Norma Jeane’s morose interior. There are some amazing set pieces in the film, including the constant clamouring and pawing of Marilyn at her film premieres, with all these men desperate to possess her and her image. There’s such clarity to the black and white images of Blonde, and it may be the best looking modern use of the aesthetic.

The movie makes it clear that, even in her private life, she is an asset to be owned, with these men desiring her because of her sexpot image, but they then use that same image to degrade and shame her. The only exception is Marilyn’s marriage to The Playwright, played by Adrian Brody. While Brody and de Armas carve out a smidge of joy in the bleak shadow that is this movie, the choice to have The Playwright call Marilyn his “secret Magda” implies once again how it’s her image he covets, not who she is.

The main problem with Blonde is that there’s no sympathy for its subject, as every single image of the movie is preoccupied with highlighting how exploited she was. She is abused, sexually assaulted, and there are intensely graphic scenes of her going through forced abortions. There’s also multiple scenes of her topless and drugged out of her mind, and she says “daddy” so many times that I began to physically cringe every time it was uttered over the course of the film. The movie wants to criticise Hollywood’s commodification of a woman’s image, as well as everyone who’s been a party to that, but in doing so, it does the same thing to Marilyn.

She’s a mere image in Blonde, devoid of humanity and agency, a hollow shell dragged through such horror and darkness. This is the reason why Spencer works and Blonde struggles – Spencer is keen to know the woman, while Blonde is only interested in a woman’s destruction, so eager to violently tear her down until all that’s left is her inert form.

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Despite all its affecting visuals and stunning camera work, Andrew Dominik's Blonde fails to make an impact because of its obsession with a woman's destruction.