The image that the world has had for decades of Marilyn Monroe was built by men. By a look from her that sexualized her, she made her a target, a ‘dumb blonde’. For the men who photographed her, who directed her, who interviewed her, who abused her. All of them caused the actress to be reduced to little more than a sexual myth. Rarely was she spoken of as a great performer, or as a reader of Chekhov or an amateur poet. Those data were not interesting. It was enough for them that she was the sex symbol, the woman who made men go crazy, and so she remained in her memory after her tragic death at the age of 36.
In recent years, this imaginary has been reversed. It’s been women who have done it, especially Joyce Carol Oates with that cathedral called Blonde, a thousand-page fictionalized biography that offers a kaleidoscopic and complex portrait of Marilyn. Change points of view and play with the narrators to get to see the woman behind the myth. The woman who manages to draw is completely different from the one they had sold us. She is intelligent, a good actress, marked by religion, by her frustrated experiences with sex. An actress who, long before Me Too, suffered abuse and pressure from an industry that never paid her as a star.
The adaptation of the novel raised, therefore, much expectation. After seeing the result of Andrew Dominik’s version, one regrets that it has not managed to convey what Oates did. His gaze perpetuates the icon as we knew it. For him, it all comes down to a woman frustrated by her father’s absence and a mentally ill mother. Of course that is the beginning of everything and it is fundamental in the novel, but it does not grant any more layers. Not a trace of her adolescence, the key to understanding her revulsion towards her sex; that in the movie she not only doesn’t count herself, but it seems that she enjoys it. A first marriage contracted by pressure does not appear, since her foster father was sexually attracted to her.
Marilyn’s personality, her fragility, is built on the understanding that she is an absolute victim of machismo and conservatism. Also of the religious fanaticism that her caregivers put into her in the juvenile center. Dominik strips the character of her complexity. There is not a single mention of the painful rules that she understands as a pain that she must suffer and in the face of which she refuses to take medication; she does not explain her way of acting, educated in pleasing men because it is what women should do. Neither is the Marilyn/Norma Jean duality well explained nor do we see her descent into pill addiction.
There are many gaps in this adaptation, but without a doubt the one that stings the most is the lack of a political and feminist layer. Only the rape of her by a Hollywood executive is shown, but not how this marks her entire career or how all men considered that they could do with her what they wanted and talk about her as if she were a prostitute. Marilyn Monroe lived in the Hollywood of witch hunts, and despite her innocence, she always took a stand against her. It is inexplicable that in a Hollywood portrait of the time this does not appear, especially when one of her partners, Arthur Miller, was accused of being a communist and she herself was investigated and about to testify before the committee on un-American activities.
Blonde it is a visually imposing rereading, but empty of content. For Dominik, everything is the result of that paternal absence. It is an eminently masculine review that only outlines Norma Jean to always stay with Marilyn Monroe. There is only risk in keeping the fragment that concerns Kennedy, with a sex scene that will raise blisters. There is no doubt that Andrew Dominik takes a risk and tries to do something different. He fills the film with visual ideas and games of his own. Some are beautiful and exciting, like that first scene with her doing her performance of one of Monroe’s most iconic moments; the beginning with his mother and the fire; abortion on the beach; or that close-up of her watching her movie as the camera pans away from her. There is also some authorial caprice in her visual commitment. There is no internal logic for format changes, nor for changes from color to black and white. They happen because he sees fit. For a need to be important. when they work, Blonde it is overwhelming, when not, simply a nothing with visual force.
What no one can deny is the incredible work of Ana de Armas, capable of becoming an iconic character without seeming like a parody. She endows her with depth, fragility and tenderness. She is at the center of the film in almost every shot and manages to become a magnet for the viewer. A role that could have been a suicide, but that confirms her as an interpreter capable of emerging stronger from a challenge of this magnitude. The actress, who goes on to join the list of candidates for the Volpi Cup, confessed at the press conference that she made this film to “see how far she could go”, but never so that “others would change her opinion” about her .
At his side, the rest of the characters are blurred, but Adrien Brody’s Arthur Miller stands out, magnificent in the most beautiful part of the entire film, the one that remains even more sober, but in which the chemistry of both actors manages to excite. and see beyond the artifact raised by Dominik, something that he does not achieve in much of the footage. Blonde It is a film that is enjoyed in its almost three hours of duration, but before which one has the feeling that the perfect opportunity to rebuild Marilyn’s imaginary has been wasted because of a shell that is beautiful on the outside and empty on the inside.