Blonde (2022 film)
Official release poster
|Directed by||Andrew Dominik 22|
|Screenplay by||Andrew Dominik|
by Joyce Carol Oates
|Edited by||Adam Robinson|
Blonde is a 2022 American historical psychological drama film written and directed by Andrew Dominik, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates. The film is a fictionalized take on the life and career of American actress Marilyn Monroe, played by Ana de Armas. The cast also includes Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, and Julianne Nicholson.
Along with shifting aspect ratios, a majority of the film is presented in black and white; other portions are set in color. Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Tracey Landon, Brad Pitt, and Scott Robertson serve as producers on the film, which, after a lengthy period of development that began in 2010, began production in August 2019 in Los Angeles. Production wrapped in July 2021, following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The film also gained notoriety for its eventual status as the first NC-17-rated film to be released via a streaming service.
Blonde had its world premiere at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 8, 2022, and began a limited theatrical release in the United States on September 16, 2022, before its streaming release on September 28, by Netflix. The film received generally mixed reviews from critics, who lauded de Armas' performance, but were polarized on Dominik's depiction of Monroe's life; some found his spin on the traditional biopic refreshing, while others criticized it as exploitative and dehumanizing.
After a traumatic childhood, Norma Jeane Mortenson becomes an actress in the Hollywood of the 1950s and early 1960s. She becomes world famous under the stage name "Marilyn Monroe", but her on-screen appearances are in stark contrast to the love issues, exploitation, abuse of power, and drug addiction she faces in her private life.
- Ana de Armas as Norma Jeane Mortenson / Marilyn Monroe
- Lily Fisher as young Norma Jeane Mortenson
- Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller / The Playwright, a renowned playwright and Marilyn's third husband.
- Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio / Ex-Athlete, the former New York Yankees baseball player and Marilyn's second husband.
- Xavier Samuel as Charles "Cass" Chaplin Jr., the son of silent film icon Charlie Chaplin.
- Julianne Nicholson as Gladys Pearl Baker, Marilyn's emotionally unstable mother.
- Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy / The President, the 35th President of the United States.
- Toby Huss as Allan "Whitey" Snyder, Marilyn's personal makeup artist.
- Sara Paxton as Miss Flynn
- David Warshofsky as Darryl F. Zanuck
- Evan Williams as Edward G. Robinson Jr.
- Michael Masini as Tony Curtis
- Rebecca Wisocky as Yvet
- Ned Bellamy as Doc Fell
- Eric Matheny as Joseph Cotten
- Catherine Dent as Jean
- Haley Webb as Brooke
- Patrick Brennan as Joe
- Scoot McNairy as Tommy "Tom" Ewell / Richard Sherman
- Lucy DeVito as Ex-Athlete's Niece
- Chris Lemmon as Jack Lemmon / Daphne
- Dan Butler as I.E. Shinn
- Garret Dillahunt
- Spencer Garrett as President's Pimp (Scenes Deleted)
- Eden Riegel as Esther (Scenes Deleted)
- Luke Whoriskey as James Dean (Scenes Deleted)
Development and writing
Andrew Dominik, who served as the director and screenwriter on the film, had begun developing the project as early as 2010, which is an adaptation of the novel, Blonde (2000)—a fictional and controversial account of Monroe's life—by Joyce Carol Oates.
Dominik discussed his fascination with Marilyn Monroe, stating, "Why is Marilyn Monroe the great female icon of the 20th Century? For men she is an object of sexual desire that is desperately in need of rescue. For women, she embodies all the injustices visited upon the feminine, a sister, a Cinderella, consigned to live among the ashes [...] I want to tell the story of Norma Jean as a central figure in a fairytale; an orphan child lost in the woods of Hollywood, being consumed by that great icon of the twentieth century."
Dominik described the film as being "more accessible" than his previous projects, and revealed that his script contained "very little dialogue", as he preferred to make it more of an "avalanche of images and events." Furthermore, Dominik stated:
It tells the story of how a childhood trauma shapes an adult who's split between a public and a private self. It's basically the story of every human being, but it's using a certain sense of association that we have with something very familiar, just through media exposure. It takes all of those things and turns the meanings of them inside out, according to how she feels, which is basically how we live. It's how we all operate in the world. It just seems to me to be very resonant. I think the project has got a lot of really exciting possibilities, in terms of what can be done, cinematically.
For Dominik, Blonde was his first attempt at developing a film featuring a woman at the center of the story. During a retrospective screening of his Oscar-nominated western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Dominik stated, "It's a different thing for me to do [...] the main character is female. My films are fairly bereft of women and now I'm imagining what it's like to be one."
In May 2010, it was announced that Naomi Watts would star in the film as Monroe, and that the production, which at this point cost an estimated $20 million, was slated to begin principal photography in January 2011. Principal photography on the film didn't commence, with Dominik later stating he hoped it would be his next film, with production commencing in 2013. During this time, Dominik directed the crime drama Killing Them Softly (2012), starring Brad Pitt, who subsequently became interested in the project.
In June 2012, it was announced Plan B Entertainment would produce the film, with Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner serving as producers, though, Watts' participation was in question, as "it's likely that the filmmakers would go in a different direction," according to the report. In April 2014, it was announced that Jessica Chastain had replaced Watts as Monroe. Chastain had co-starred in Terrence Malick's drama The Tree of Life (2011) opposite Pitt, who was instrumental in her casting. The report also revealed that Dominik was planning to begin principal photography in August of that year.
Dominik attributed the delays in production partly due to financing: "it's just a question of how much money I can get to make the film. And I really want to make that movie. I've been working on it for years."
In March 2019, it was announced that Ana de Armas was in early negotiations to star in the film, replacing Chastain. Dominik noticed de Armas's performance in Knock Knock, and while she went through a long casting process, Dominik secured her the role after the first audition.
In preparation, de Armas worked with a dialect coach for a year. De Armas described her casting process: "I only had to audition for Marilyn once and Andrew said 'It's you,' but I had to audition for everyone else [...] The producers. The money people. I always have people I needed to convince. But I knew I could do it. Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking. A Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe. I wanted it so badly. You see that famous photo of her and she is smiling in the moment, but that's just a slice of what she was really going through at the time."
De Armas considered her relationship with Dominik to be the most collaborative of her career, remarking, "Yes, I have had collaborative relationships, but to get phone calls at midnight because he has an idea and he can't sleep and all of a sudden you can't sleep for the same reason." De Armas read Oates' novel and also said she studied hundreds of photographs, videos, audio recordings, [and] films.
In August 2019, it was announced that Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, Caspar Phillipson, Sara Paxton and Xavier Samuel joined the cast, followed by Garret Dillahunt, Scoot McNairy, Lucy DeVito, Michael Masini, Spencer Garrett, Chris Lemmon, Rebecca Wisocky, Ned Bellamy and Dan Butler in September 2019.
Principal photography began in Los Angeles in August 2019. In April 2022, Dominik confirmed that the filming was finished in July 2021, following the shutdowns as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and that post-production had also been finished.
It was initially announced to be releasing on Netflix on September 23, 2022, but the date was later shifted to a September 28 release. The film will also have a limited theatrical release in New York City on September 16, 2022, and in other locations on September 23, 2022.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Blonde holds an approval rating of 52% based on 132 reviews, with an average of 5.9/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Blonde can be hard to watch as it teeters between commenting on exploitation and contributing to it, but Ana de Armas' luminous performance makes it difficult to look away." On Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Reviewing the film following its world premiere at Venice, where it received a fourteen-minute standing ovation, Catherine Bray of Empire praised Dominik's visual style and de Armas' performance, but found the film failed at demystifying Monroe's life, writing: "The portrait that this film paints of Monroe depicts a little girl lost, who repeatedly calls her lovers 'Daddy' and reacts to almost every new setback with the same tremulously teary ingénue's pout." Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson found it an "fascinating alternative to the traditional biopic", commending the unconventional storytelling, direction, and de Armas' performance. Deadline Hollywood's Damon Wise stated the film is an "astonishing" way to tell Monroe's life in a fictional sense, as it is "presented as a horror movie in the surreal, nightmarish style" comparable to the films of David Lynch, especially Mulholland Drive (2001).
In GQ, Jack King's review also notes how the film shifts from a "traditional biopic" to "a movie unrelenting in its brutality". In a three-star review for The Guardian, Leslie Felperin described the film as "ravishing, moving and intensely irritating", but ultimately "all a bit much". In a mixed review for IndieWire, Sophie Monks Kaufman called the film a "bizarre, miserablist biopic", admiring de Armas' performance and the cinematography, but criticizing Dominik's portrayal of Monroe: "Dominik critiques the world for reducing his subject down to her topline assets—and then treats her in exactly the same way. His Marilyn is a sexy, breathy blonde with daddy issues. And that's all, folks."
"At times, the movie feels like a slaughterhouse seen from the animal's point of view" wrote Bilge Ebiri in his review for Vulture, remarking on the film's tendency to elicit strong reactions and emotions from an audience by putting together what he described as a "captivating and terrifying" jigsaw puzzle of Monroe's life. Anthony Lane, in his review for The New Yorker, praised de Armas' performance and Dominik's visual style, but heavily criticized his portrayal of Monroe, ultimately concluding: "Bedazzling, overlong, and unjust, Blonde does a grave disservice to the woman whom it purports to honor." In a negative review for Slant Magazine, Jake Cole echoed Lane's sentiment, stating: "Blonde…is the worst kind of feminism, one so absorbed in the desire to 'save' a woman that it victimizes her as much as possible to make its redemption of her that much more praiseworthy." Writing for Time, Stephanie Zacharek criticized Dominik for allowing "no room for the real-life Marilyn’s multidimensionality", asserting that "Marilyn—the brilliant, perceptive if often difficult performer—is almost nowhere to be seen in Andrew Dominik’s willfully clueless Freudian fantasy Blonde".
Joyce Carol Oates, the author of the novel on which the film is based, observed a rough cut of the film, and publicly stated: "I have seen the rough cut of Andrew Dominick's [sic] adaptation and it is startling, brilliant, very disturbing and perhaps most surprisingly an utterly 'feminist' interpretation... not sure that any male director has ever achieved anything [like] this."
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis—who starred opposite Ana de Armas in Knives Out (2019), and whose father, Tony Curtis, starred opposite Monroe in Some Like It Hot (1959) and is featured in the film—was impressed with de Armas' performance, after also seeing an early cut: "I dropped to the floor. I couldn't believe it. Ana was completely gone. She was Marilyn." Brad Pitt, who co-produced the film via his Plan B banner praised de Armas' performance, saying "She is phenomenal in it. That's a tough dress to fill. It was 10 years in the making. It wasn't until we found Ana that we could get it across the finish line". Actor Casey Affleck also praised the film, stating, "I've seen a couple of versions of Blonde and it's taken him [Dominik] a long time to get it out into the world. But that's just how he is. He's so slow with it. And it's an amazing, beautiful film."
Upon the trailers' release, de Armas' casting as Monroe received some backlash as some viewers felt her ethnic background did not entirely match Monroe's, with complaints that she still maintained her native Cuban accent. Monroe's official estate defended de Armas' casting, stating, "Marilyn Monroe is a singular Hollywood and pop culture icon that transcends generations and history. Any actor that steps into that role knows they have big shoes to fill. Based on the trailer alone, it looks like Ana was a great casting choice as she captures Marilyn's glamour, humanity and vulnerability. We can't wait to see the film in its entirety!"
Blonde sparked some controversy when its NC-17 rating was confirmed, raising concerns that it would be exploitative in its depiction of Monroe. The film itself features graphic scenes of sexual abuse as well as Monroe experiencing a miscarriage. Writing for Jezebel, Kady Ruth Ashcroft remarked on how the rating's relationship with Monroe's enduring status as a sex symbol in pop culture prevents the film from achieving its goal of humanizing her, concluding: "Blonde's NC-17 rating is intended as both a warning and restriction as to who can handle the film's mature content. It also acts like a tease—just how scandalous was this sexpot's life anyways?—in a way that may prevent the movie from shrinking Monroe the myth back down to Norma Jean."
Speaking on the rating in an interview with Screen Daily, Dominik stated "It's a demanding movie—it is what it is, it says what it says. And if the audience doesn't like it, that's the fucking audience's problem. It's not running for public office" and added, "If I look at an episode of Euphoria, it's far more graphic than anything going on in Blonde". In an interview with fashion magazine L'Officiel Italia, de Armas echoed the sentiment, saying "I don't understand why it happened. I can cite a number of programs or movies that are much more explicit and with a lot more sexual content than Blonde. But to tell this story it's important to show all those moments in Marilyn's life that brought her to the end she did. It needs to be explained. In the cast everyone knew we should delve into unpleasant territory, it wasn't just up to me". Delving into what Dominik's vision for the film was, de Armas told Rotten Tomatoes, "Andrew's ambitions were very clear from the start—to present a version of Marilyn Monroe's life through her lens. He wanted the world to experience what it actually felt like to not only be Marilyn, but also Norma Jeane. I found that to be the most daring, unapologetic, and feminist take on her story that I had ever seen." She added, "Our movie is not linear or conventional; it is meant to be a sensorial and emotional experience. The film moves along with her feelings and her experiences. There are moments when we are inside of her body and mind, and this will give the audience an opportunity to experience what it was like to be Norma and Marilyn at the same time."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref.|
|Venice Film Festival||September 10, 2022||Golden Lion||Andrew Dominik||Nominated|||
|Deauville American Film Festival||September 9, 2022||Hollywood Rising Star Award||Ana de Armas||Won|||
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Ana Celia de Armas Caso nació hace 31 años en La Habana / Ana Celia de Armas Caso was born 31 years ago [as of March 15, 2020] in Havana...
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- Marilyn Diptych (1962 painting)
- Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962 painting)
- Marilyn (1963 documentary)
- Shot Marilyns (1964 paintings)
- The Legend of Marilyn Monroe (1966 documentary)
- Untitled from Marilyn Monroe (1967 prints)
- "Candle in the Wind" (1973 song)
- Goodbye, Norma Jean (1976 film)
- Marilyn (1980 opera)
- This Year's Blonde (1980 film)
- Marilyn: The Untold Story (1980 film)
- Insignificance (1985 film)
- Taxi (1988 pinball machine)
- Goodnight, Sweet Marilyn (1989 film)
- Marilyn and Me (1991 film)
- Calendar Girl (1993 film)
- Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996 film)
- Blonde (2001 film)
- Marilyn Forever Blonde (2007 play)
- Marilyn and Ella (2008 play)
- Forever Marilyn (2011 statue)
- My Week with Marilyn (2011 film)
- Love, Marilyn (2012 documentary)
- "Marilyn Monroe" (2012 song)
- The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (2015 film)
- Norma Jeane Baker of Troy (2019 play)
- Blonde (2022 film)