8/10 Every year when a fantastic, Academy Award nominated film is released, there are inevitably woke buffoons who have to chime in with some of the worst takes imaginable. Whether it was the blue check marks on Twitter complaining that “La La Land” had white leads in a film that paid homage to jazz or “Green Book” having the audacity to show that a white man can have a redemption arc and learn from his past, foolish ways, there is never a shortage of stupidity online. The latest example is writer/director Andrew Dominik’s “Blonde”. I don’t think I’ve seen a great film with this many horrible pieces written about it, completely missing the point in a long while. I’ve read everything from “this movie isn’t accurate” to “this is pro-life propaganda” to “this movie shows the male gaze”. Each opinion piece seems to be dumber than the last but let’s dive into the film because while it isn’t for everyone, this is a great and tragic film with some of the year’s best production values and performances. Before we get into the pros and cons, I have to state that this film, based upon Joyce Carol Oates’s 1999 novel of the same name is technically a work of fiction. The novel is a fictionalized version of the life of Norma Jeane Mortenson AKA Marilyn Monroe, who lived a roller coaster of a life and died tragically at the age of 36. So while complaints of inaccuracies might seem valid on the surface, you have to realize that this film never pretends to be a documentary or a straight forward biopic, factually retelling her life from beginning to end. Some of the events in the film happened and others did not. As for the topic of abortion, Monroe lost all three pregnancies and therefore, never bore children. Miscarriages are generally seen as very traumatic events to go through for women and this film by simply showing Monroe’s desire to be a mother paired with images of the fetus growing inside of her has triggered far left radicals who condemn motherhood and don’t want you to ever humanize a living, breathing fetus. As for the male gaze critics, they are completely missing the point. This film shows how Monroe was a woman living in a man’s world and particularly in Hollywood, where men had absolute power and abused it. The one constant throughout the film is how generally horrible men were to Monroe. Men raped her, abused her, mocked her, hated her, mistreated her, used her, drugged her, etc. all while never looking at her as a serious actress or even just a human being, but instead seeing a piece of meat to lust after and try to sleep with. We see the male gaze in the film because that is all she was surrounded by for the entirety of her adult life. Dominik has a terrific scene where Monroe arrives at one of her film premieres and the camera pans to the drooling sycophants photographing her, screaming out to her and reaching for her. Their faces become distorted monsters, allowing their insides to match their outward appearance. Horrible criticisms aside, there are a couple mild problems with the film. Pacing happens to be both a pro and a con but from the con side, the last 45 minutes of the film do drag, with a few shots lingering on for too long as the film starts to run out of gas in the third and final act. While Cuban actress Ana de Armas gives the performance of her career (thus far) and deserves a ton of praise, her Cuban accent does come out randomly in certain scenes or lines. While Monroe’s mother was Mexican, the inconsistency of the accent is still worth noting. Besides the pacing at the end and some slight accent issues, I thought the film was fantastic. From an acting perspective, Armas is a revelation and easily deserves a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Her performance is completely fearless and brave as she has to literally bare it all and get to some dark places. This was certainly no picnic to film for Armas due to the dire subject matter but she becomes Monroe and makes you forget that you are watching a performance. The supporting cast members, while not given as much screentime, are still fantastic and make the most of their time in the film. The score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is one of the best scores of the year so far and while there are a few months left of 2022, a Best Original Score nomination seems deserved. We are also blessed with some of the best cinematography of 2022 from DP Chayse Irvin who I can also easily see securing an Oscar nomination. Dominik and Irvin combine with a beautifully imaginative style that sees the film moving from black & white to color, showcasing changing aspect ratios and distorting images. Since Monroe was often drugged up and overmedicated (which lead to her death), seeing constantly changing/distorted visuals not only brings a stylistic approach to the film but the disorienting nature helps put you in Monroe’s shoes as her reality only became fuzzier from all of the drugs. While the end may have dragged a bit, the first two hours of this nearly three hour film were well paced and engaging, making the film overall entertaining and fascinating to watch unfold. The production design and costume design expertly recreate the time period and the film is extremely emotional as you see all of the horrors that Monroe had to endure for fame. This is Dominik’s first dramatic film in a decade (although he directed two documentaries and two episodes of the superb/underrated “Mindhunter”) but his entire filmography is incredibly strong, as he usually takes real life people (Mark Brandon ‘Chopper’ Read, Jesse James, Robert Ford) and gives us stunning visuals and memorable experiences with them. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another decade for him to bless us with some more beautifully heartbreaking work. If you expect a straight forward biopic or a slice of Monroe’s life like “My Week with Marilyn”, then I am sure you will be disappointed but if you know that what you are going to see is a hyper-stylized, half true/half false, artistic vision that showcases the misogyny, sexism and abuse endured by Monroe, then you can find a film that is equal parts tragic and triumphant worth seeking out for patient viewers.
#MonroeVsWade / #DontBotherToMock / #TheMissTits / #UnderNormaCircumstances / #BlondeOnBlondeJustLikeAWoman / #AllAboutGrieve

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