Some Like It Dark: Ana De Armas Brings Harrowing Humanity to ‘Blonde’

There’s a great probability that you simply’ll be gasping for air by the tip of Andrew Dominik’s cruel fever dream, Blonde, starring a miraculous Ana de Armas as display screen icon Marilyn Monroe. With a working time of practically three hours and a score of NC-17 (Netflix’s first), Dominik’s tackle celeb, toxicity, and the lack of id isn’t within the information surrounding the famed actress’ truncated profession or her tragic dying at 36 as a lot as psychologically inhabiting her pores and skin. In doing so, he flings us down a rabbit gap the place childhood trauma, the trimmings of fame, and a male-dominated trade conspire like Satanic monks to devour her cowering soul. The result’s a visible nightmare that’s each enthralling and irritating; typically in equal measures.

Author/director Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of the 700-page novel by Joyce Carol Oates opens on seven-year-old Norma Jeane (Lily Fisher) as she’s laid low with her alcoholic mom (Julianne Nicholson). Someday, her mom reveals her {a photograph} of a person in a fedora and says that her father’s a Hollywood bigwig who deserted them. The picture of an absentee father who works in “the industry” unleashes a torrent of emotion that programs via the movie.

From there, Dominik hurries us via Monroe’s adolescence and early 20’s the place she endures the rigmarole of auditions, appearing lessons, and pin-up shoots. She will get her massive break with a small function in All About Eve, however solely after submitting to a studio head who rapes her in his workplace. It’s a jarring second that tears down our preconceived idolatry. She’s human and a sufferer. Not a logo. All through her journey, Dominik and cinematographer Chayse Irvin change between black and white and technicolor, making a dizzying impact; we don’t know the place fantasy begins and actuality ends. Quickly, Norma Jeane creates the display screen personae Marilyn Monroe, which performs as a splinter in her psyche. All of a sudden, she lives in a jigsaw puzzle with disembodied voices, grotesque reflections, vibrant lights, and cameras that snap like gunshots.

As Monroe turns into well-known in movies like Niagara and Gents Favor Blondes, she dreamily floats from one romance to one other. Probably the most ill-conceived of those is a gradual threesome with Cass (Xavier Samuels) and Eddie (Evan Williams), the sons of Charlie Chaplin and Edward G. Robinson, respectively. This groan-inducing sequence performs like a cheesy Calvin Klein advert and lands with a pretentious thud. All of a sudden, she’s pregnant with considered one of their infants and turns into tabloid fodder. Buckling beneath stress from the studio, she will get an abortion, which haunts her for the remainder of her life. Though it’s genuinely heartbreaking, CGI pictures from inside her cervix, wherein her aborted child scolds her, are ill-suited. Scenes like these would possibly’ve held resonance in Oates’ novel, however onscreen they really feel maladroit and outlandish. Fortunately, they’re few and much between.

From there, we tiptoe via her marriage with baseball legend, Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale), whose ego is so fragile you marvel why he married a film star within the first place. Their relationship disintegrates right into a battleground of bodily and psychological abuse. Her subsequent marriage to playwright Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody) is extra tender and intellectually stimulating, though he creepily idealizes her as a lady from his childhood named “Magda.” These relationships really feel like Faustian bargains wherein she sells a chunk of her soul in return for paternal love. After a miscarriage, she descends into an inferno of capsules, booze, and a sordid affair with John F. Kennedy, which is uncovered within the film’s most annoying scene.

This isn’t the primary time the Australian filmmaker has tackled the topic of celeb. From Chopper to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Dominik appears fascinated with fame’s skill to camouflage and even exacerbate psychological sickness. Is it any marvel that Dominik’s model of Jesse James is the one one in cinema historical past who suffers from schizophrenia?

With a swooning rating by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Blonde shares the identical unsettling, dreamlike temper as his different movies, though this one’s bleaker. Whereas films like Jesse James and even Killing Them Softly steadiness grim materials with absurdist humor and distinctive characters, Blonde is unceasingly brutal and sullen. There isn’t a hint of Marilyn Monroe’s incandescent wit or the exuberance she introduced to the display screen, which retains us at a sure distance. However that is utterly intentional. The movie doesn’t need us to empathize with Marilyn as a lot as share a confined area together with her. A sensory expertise full of dread and paranoia, at occasions, you’re feeling locked inside a corridor of mirrors with out an escape. Merely put, Dominik desires to know what it’s like to be the sufferer of a poisonous tradition, bodily. Typically his stylistic flourish works; at different occasions it feels awkward or exploitative.

Fortunately, Ana de Armas offers the compassion and humanity the film so desperately wants. She doesn’t play Monroe as a lot as disappears inside her. Together with her breathy voice and childlike gaze, she creates a portrait of a lady slowly drowning within the malaise of an unforgiving world. Sure, her Cuban accent surfaces from time to time, however her tour-de-force efficiency makes these complaints irrelevant. It’s a efficiency of such grit and daring, it’ll be remembered for years.

If you happen to’re anticipating a traditional biopic, you’ll be sorely disillusioned. This can be a advanced portrait of victimhood that takes probabilities and asks robust questions. It’s additionally in all probability too lengthy, inconsistent, and abrasive, and will’ve misplaced just a few sequences which decelerate an in any other case immersive expertise. Dominik trusts his viewers to fill within the blanks although, and that alone is thrilling.

Blonde is in theaters now and debuts on Netflix on Wed., Sep. 28.

 

 

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