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Review of 'Blonde'

by Paul Levinson 2 months ago in movie review · updated 2 months ago
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Only the Acting Was Excellent

Just watched Blonde on Netflix. I'm sorry to say I found only the acting was excellent.

Let's talk about that excellence first. Ana de Armas as Norma Jeane delivered an Oscar worthy performance, conveying the 20% bravado/80% vulnerability that we think we know of Marilyn just perfectly. The voice, the facial expressions, and body language were so good, I could believe I was seeing Marilyn on the screen.

Adrien Brody as "The Playwright" aka Arthur Miller was also superb, not ever really understanding Marilyn, flattered and impressed not just by her beauty but more by her intelligence. Bobby Cannavale as "The Ex-Athlete" aka Joe DiMaggio also gave a strong, if somewhat obvious performance (not his fault, since he didn't write the dialogue). And Julianne Nicholson gave a memorable performance as Norma's mother.

As for the rest -- the story, the pace, the intensity of many of the scenes -- not so good at all. First, to be clear, I obviously know nothing of Norma/Marilyn personally. And I haven't read the "novel" by Joyce Carol Oates that Andrew Dominic's movie is based upon, so I can't say how true the movie was to the novel. (I put "novel" in quotes because the amount of truth in her accounting of Marilyn's life and death has been under debate since the book first was published back in 2000.) But whatever the source of this lurid accounting on the screen, I don't get why Miller and DiMaggio had to go nameless. (I would add that, at least here in the United States, the law says that the dead cannot be slandered.)

But namelessness is the least of this narrative's problems. Norma/Marilyn dies, according to the movie, either accidentally or deliberately taking too many pills and alcohol because she's devastated that someone, obviously not her father, who had been writing to Norma as her father for years, admits that he really wasn't her father? Unless that truly happened, that's a pretty lame reason, given what the movie previously shows us about Marilyn's surprising resilience, rescuing her time after time. Not to mention that someone with her intelligence, which was well portrayed in the movie, surely would have realized that the "tearful father" who communicated with Norma/Marilyn over the years but never showed up as he was promising to do, certainly was not her father.

And the scenes ... with the exception of most of the Arthur Miller segment, which at times had a real tenderness, the overall story was a continuing series of scenes, one after another, that were punches to the stomach and the soul.

Ok, I will admit that the closing scene did have a flash of perverse poetry, perhaps, with Marilyn posing and smiling at us, her audience, after she was gone. It felt like a cinematic embodiment of Bernie Taupin's words in the Elton John song, "Goodbye Norma Jean," about all the papers having to say was that Marilyn's body was found in the nude. Even in death, her body was exploited, with whether or not this was what she wanted never being known for sure.

But as for the rest, I suppose this is a question of personal taste, but the tableaus were just too unpleasant, viscerally revolting, even if the events they were portraying were necessary to see in any form in this movie. The John F. Kennedy fellatio scene was demeaning to everyone -- including the viewer -- not to mention that who knows if this actually happened. And while we're on the JFK-Marilyn relationship, why not show the famous "Happy Birthday Mr. President" iconic scene from Madison Square Garden, which was real and stunning?

So, though I'll take a chance and see any movie about Marilyn Monroe, only the acting and a sparse few scenes save me from saying I'm sorry I wasted my time on this trauma porn.

this novelette is 100% fiction about Marilyn ... well, almost...

movie review

About the author

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan translated into 15 languages. Details here. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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Comments (7)

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  • Amas Cotnw2 months ago

    Very well written! Thanks for sharing

  • Gross2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing, great write up!

  • Lori Lamothe2 months ago

    Thanks for this. I will probably watch but am almost dreading it at this point.

  • Horse Moro2 months ago

    completely agree I was so disappointed with this movie.

  • Willow Cinders2 months ago

    trama porn, yeah that pretty much sums it up. Great review!

  • Gene Lass2 months ago

    I didn't see it, as I didn't expect it to be good. I didn't read the novel as I'm really, really not an Oates fan. I've tried reading various things she's written that are supposedly good and I typically find them to be overly wordy and the style just makes me feel ill, even after a page or two. I have never successfully read an entire work of hers, even a short story, for that reason, so despite the subject, which I like, I wasn't going to read the book. However, I've been a lifelong fan of Marilyn and have read other books about her, so I can tell you I agree this suicide about her father angle is absurd. No way. Accidental death, maybe. Murder to look like an accident, highly possible. She was involved with the President, the Attorney General, and the Mafia, all at the same time. All proven. And that's not a good position to be in. On the JFK angle, I can tell you this first-hand. JFK was friends with Sinatra, who openly campaigned for him along with all of the Rat Pack. Sinatra knew Marilyn because he knew everybody, especially if they were beautiful. After he got elected, JFK was advised to divest himself of Sinatra because Sinatra's ties to the mob were trouble for JFK (whose father was a bootlegger, but they wanted people to forget that). Well, Sinatra had a bachelor pad he built in Palm Springs specifically as a getaway for him and JFK. He built a helipad there so JFK could fly right in. JFK was supposed to go there for Thanksgiving, but he cancelled and hung out with Bing Crosby instead, who despite being a Republican, had a squeaky clean image. Sinatra, outraged, smashed the helipad and didn't talk to JFK directly again. In the 90s, I worked on a magazine for train fans. Sinatra was a model railroad nut who had a layout at the place in Palm Springs. He had sold it, but the new owner kept the place the same. We went there to do a photo shoot of the layout. Sinatra was also a painter. Hanging in the house is a portrait of JFK, painted by Sinatra. A lock of his hair is in the corner. Hanging next to that is a portrait of Marilyn, also with a lock of her hair. No portraits of Jackie anywhere. That was their place to hang out, the three of them, any combination of the three.

  • sara burdick2 months ago

    completely agree I was so disappointed with this movie.

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