Sure to be 2022’s most divisive film yet, Blonde boldly ventures into the realm of discomfort to create a film that is certainly hard to stomach. With the film harshly bordering between being eye-opening and overwhelming, I can definitely understand the split criticism that has been shared by movie critics. Blonde is a fictionalized biographical drama focusing on the short life of Norma Jeane Mortenson, also known as the iconic actress, Marilyn Monroe. Directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Ana de Armas in the titular role, the film is based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates. As one of my most anticipated watches in September, my excitement towards finally watching the film quickly turned into shock as it did for many. If you’ve yet to see the film, please note you should prepare yourself to either very passionately hate it or love it (you definitely won’t come out of it feeling neutral).

[Please note there will be spoilers in this review; read at your own discretion]

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe

With a whopping 2h 47m runtime, Blonde is probably the kind of movie you’ll want to finish over a couple sittings. Not only will it make it easier for you to stomach the disturbing content, I found that the movie was too lengthy for its own good. I myself finished this movie over the span of three days, deciding that it’d be better to watch this one slowly rather than trying to sit through three long hours of relentless abuse.
And that seems to be the main focus of this fictionalized retelling of Marilyn’s life: abuse. Throughout Blonde you will bear witness to Norma Jeane/Marilyn being mentally and physically punished by her mother, past and present lovers, and even strangers. The biggest complaint I’ve read from critics thus far is that the movie is far too exploitative and sexist. Unfortunately, now that I’ve seen it, I have to agree. Instead of sharing Marilyn’s triumphs and legacy, the film felt like it was constantly dehumanizing her and demeaning her very being. At times, it hardly felt like the movie was focused on her and that it was instead portraying her as someone who only reacted and responded to the men around her.

Marilyn Monroe and her ex husband Joe

It’s quite rare for me to feel uncomfortable for the entirety of a movie, but Blonde truly is the exception. The film’s content is jarring and very hard to watch with a tension that is never fully removed from the screen. My main issue with the film is that there were hardly any moments of levity (if at all). I wanted to see more than just Marilyn’s tragic suffering, I wanted to see more of who she was as a person – her likes, her dislikes, her struggles, but also her accomplishments. Blonde just seemed to depict Marilyn as the star we already believe to know – a female icon who was undeservingly sexualized and exploited. It didn’t really feel like I walked away learning anything new about this icon, it kind of just provided an even more graphic depiction of Marilyn’s troubles. I was genuinely hoping for something different than what was given, and the movie was so bleak that it was hard to smile.

I also found that the pacing wasn’t done well at all and that I struggled numerous times to follow along with the fragmented storyline. There isn’t really a complete story being told here, it’s more like bits and pieces of a puzzle where you have to put in work to put two and two together. Some scenes dragged on for too long, and some of the more quiet, respectable moments that I actually enjoyed were over way too quickly. It’s definitely an unconventional approach in telling a biographical story (but remember, Blonde is fiction!), and while I appreciated Dominik’s creative attempt, I can’t say it worked for me. There was too much information that was left far too ambiguous or difficult to understand for the story to feel cohesive in any sense.

Marilyn Monroe and her third husband

While I definitely took issue with the heaviness of the film, what I did enjoy was the artistic style and the cinematography of Blonde. Whether it was the camera’s movements, the colour choices, or the sizing of the screen, I have to commend the filmmakers’ ability to capture the essence of the scene. I felt each shot was able to capture Armas’ emotions perfectly which made the scenes feel more raw. I particularly liked the camera’s movements in certain shots, which at times felt dizzying and rocky, because it matched the tension and tone of the scene very well. There were also some interesting CGI and animation additions that were visually appealing and popped out of the screen.

But if there’s one thing that I can really appreciate and applaud in this movie, it has to be Armas’ superb performance as Monroe. With a career best performance, I was absolutely blown away by Armas’ commitment and determination in nailing the role of Marilyn. I could feel her devotion and care in telling this story and I have to commend her fearlessness in fully showing her vulnerability on screen for everyone to see. I was stunned by her likeness to the actual Marilyn, and after seeing some side by side shots, I can only say the filmmakers nailed the casting. Armas’ was truly fantastic and her performance held all the emotional range needed to succeed in the role. Although critics have been arguing over the film’s rating as a whole, there has been no argument over how tremendous Armas’ acting was. And rightly so.

Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe

With so much news buzzing around this film, I’m sure you’ve shared some interest in watching it (if you haven’t already!). The best advice I can give you is to mentally prepare yourself because Blonde is a very unsettling watch that breaches the territory of sensitive content. So use your own judgment to determine whether this movie is worth watching for you! I certainly had a difficult time finishing the movie, but I wouldn’t say I regret watching it. I’m going to have to agree with the critics on this one and give Blonde a 5/10. While there are aspects of the film that I did enjoy, there was a lot more that I didn’t enjoy. All I can say is this movie will really test your patience. With such differing reviews online, I’m really curious as to what your thoughts on the movie are. If you feel comfortable with doing so, feel free to share in the comments below.