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“Blonde” abuses and exploits Marilyn Monroe all over again, the way so many men did over the cultural icon’s tragic, too-short life. Maybe that’s the point, but it creates a maddening paradox: condemning the cruelty the superstar endured until her death at 36 while also reveling in it.

And yet writer/director Andrew Dominik ’s film, based on the fictional novel by Joyce Carol Oates , remains technically impeccable throughout, even though it feels like an overlong odyssey at nearly three hours. The craftsmanship on display presents another conundrum: “Blonde” is riveting, even mesmerizing, but eventually you’ll want to turn your eyes away as this lurid display becomes just too much. My personal breaking point was a POV shot from inside Marilyn’s vagina as she was having a forced abortion performed on her. A lengthy, extreme close-up of a drugged-up Monroe fellating President Kennedy while he’s on the phone in a hotel room also feels gratuitous and is probably why the film has earned a rare NC-17 rating.

Did any of this really happen? Maybe. Maybe not. What you have to understand from the start is that “Blonde” is an exploration of the idea of Marilyn Monroe. It’s as much a biopic of the film star as “ Elvis ” is a biopic of Elvis Presley . It touches on a series of actual, factual events as a road map, from her movies to her marriages. But ultimately, it’s a fantasia of fame, which increasingly becomes a hellscape. That’s more exciting than the typical biography that plays the greatest hits of a celebrity’s life in formulaic fashion, and “Blonde” is consistently inventive as it toys with both tone and form. By the end, though, this approach feels overwhelming and even a little dreary.  

As Marilyn Monroe—or her real name of Norma Jeane, as she’s mostly called in the film— Ana de Armas is asked to cry. A lot. Sometimes it’s a light tear or two as she draws from her traumatic childhood for an acting class exercise. Usually, it’s heaving sobs as the cumulative weight of mental illness and addiction takes its toll. When she’s not crying, she’s naked. Frequently, she’s both, as well as bloody. And in nearly every situation, she’s either a pawn or a victim, a fragile angel searching for a father figure to love and protect her.

Certainly, some of this is accurate—the way Hollywood power brokers regarded her as a pretty face and a great ass when she wanted them to consider her a serious actress and love her for her soul. De Armas gives it her all in every moment; she’s so captivating, so startling, that you long for the part to provide her the opportunity to show more of Marilyn’s depth, to dig deeper than the familiar cliches. She’s doing the breathy, girlish voice, but not perfectly—traces of her Cuban accent are unmistakable—and that’s OK given the film’s unorthodox approach. More importantly, she captures Monroe’s spirit, and often looks uncannily like her. Following standout supporting turns in movies like “ Knives Out ” and “ No Time to Die ,” as well as the delicious trash that was “ Deep Water ,” here is finally the meaty, leading role that showcases all she can do. She’s so good that she makes you wish the role rose to her level.

“Blonde” is a fever dream from the very start. Working with cinematographer Chayse Irivn (“ BlacKkKlansman ,” Beyonce’s “Lemonade”) and frequent musical collaborators Nick Cave and Warren Ellis , Dominik sets the scene with impressionistic wisps of sight and sound. Shadows and ethereal snippets of score mix with ash from a fire in the Hollywood hills blowing through the night sky. The phone rings loudly. The camera swish pans to the left. We’re immediately on edge. It’s Los Angeles 1933, and young Norma Jeane (a poised and heartbreaking Lily Fisher ) is enduring horrific physical and emotional abuse from her volatile and hyperverbal mother (a haunting Julianne Nicholson , always great).

Dominik (“ The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ”) proclaims his restless style from the beginning—jumping around not just in time, but from high-contrast black and white to rich Technicolor and in between various aspect ratios. Sometimes, the color palette is faded, as if we’re looking at Marilyn in a long-ago photograph. Sometimes, the sound design is muted—as in her classic performance of “I Wanna Be Loved by You” from “ Some Like It Hot ”—to indicate the confusion of her inner state. It’s all thrilling for a while, and de Armas strikes a magnetic figure as the young Marilyn in both her vulnerability and her ambition.

An imagined three-way romance with Charlie Chaplin Jr. ( Xavier Samuel ) and Edward G. Robinson Jr. ( Evan Williams ) brings a welcome vibe of fun and frolic; they’re both beautiful and flirtatious, smoldering and seductive. And it becomes clear as the movie progresses that they’re the only men who loved her for her true self as Norma Jeane while also appreciating the beguiling artifice of Marilyn. This relationship also teaches Norma Jeane to lose herself in the mirror in order to find the famous persona she’ll present to the outside world: “There she is, your magic friend,” “Cass” Chaplin purrs as he caresses her from behind. And Dominik will return to that image of Norma Jeane beseeching her own reflection as a means of conjuring strength. The character’s stark duality gives de Armas plenty of room to show off her impressive range and precise technique.

But too much of “Blonde” is about men chewing Marilyn up and spitting her back out. A studio executive known only as “Mr. Z”—presumably as in Zanuck—rapes her when she visits his office about a part. New York Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio ( Bobby Cannavale ) seems like a decent and tender husband until he turns controlling and violent. Her next husband, playwright Arthur Miller (an understated Adrien Brody ), is patient and kind yet emotionally detached—but by the time Marilyn is married to him, anxiety, booze and pills have wrecked her so significantly that no one could have helped.

She calls these men “Daddy” in the hope that they’ll function in place of the father she never knew but desperately craved, but in the end, everyone lets her down. And “Blonde” does, too, as it strands de Armas in a third-act sea of hysteria. As for the film’s many graphic moments—including one from the perspective of an airplane toilet, as if Marilyn is puking up pills and champagne directly on us—one wonders what the point is. Merely to shock? To show the extent to which the Hollywood machinery commodified her? That’s nothing new.

“Blonde” is actually more powerful in its gentler interludes—when Marilyn and Arthur Miller are teasingly chasing each other on the beach, for example, hugging and kissing in the golden, shimmering sunlight. “Am I your good girl, Daddy?” she asks him sweetly, seeking his approval. But of course, she can’t be happy here, either. All her joyous times are tinged with sadness because we know how this story ends.

More often, Dominik seems interested in scenes like the garish slow-motion of the “Some Like It Hot” premiere, where hordes of ravenous men line the sidewalks for Marilyn’s arrival, frantically chanting her name, their eyes and mouths distorted to giant, frightening effect as if they wish to devour her whole. He similarly lingers in his depiction of the famous subway grate moment from “The Seven Year Itch,” with Marilyn’s ivory halter dress billowing up around her as she giggles and smiles for the crowds and cameras. (The costume design from Jennifer Johnson is spectacularly on-point throughout, from her famous gowns to simple sweaters and capri pants.) We see it in black-and-white and color, in slow-motion and regular speed, from every imaginable angle, over and over again.

After a while, it becomes so repetitive that this iconic, pop culture moment grows numbing, and we grow weary of the spectacle. Maybe that’s Dominik’s point after all. But we shouldn’t be.

In limited theatrical release tomorrow. On Netflix on September 23rd.

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for RogerEbert.com since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

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Film credits.

Blonde movie poster

Blonde (2022)

Rated NC-17 for some sexual content.

166 minutes

Ana de Armas as Norma Jeane

Adrien Brody as The Playwright

Bobby Cannavale as The Ex-Athlete

Garret Dillahunt

Sara Paxton as Miss Flynn

Lucy DeVito

Julianne Nicholson as Gladys

Scoot McNairy

Xavier Samuel as Cass Chaplin

Caspar Phillipson as The President

Evan Williams as Eddy G. Robinson Jr.

Rebecca Wisocky as Yvet

Toby Huss as Whitey

Catherine Dent as Jean

Haley Webb as Brooke

Eden Riegel as Esther

Spencer Garrett as President's Pimp

Tygh Runyan as Father

David Warshofsky as Mr. Z

Lily Fisher as Young Norma Jeane

Michael Masini as Tony Curtis

Chris Lemmon

Ned Bellamy as Doc Fell

Sonny Valicenti as Casting Director

Colleen Foy as Pat

Brian Konowal

Tatum Shank as Dick Tracy

Andrew Thacher as Jiggs

Dominic Leeder as Bugs Bunny

Lidia Sabljic as Sweet Sue

Isabel Dresden as Doc Fell's Nurse

Skip Pipo as Dr. Bender

Tyler Bruhn as NYC Acting Student

Ravil Isyanov as Billy Wilder

Tim Ransom as Rudy

Judy Kain as Severe Woman

Time Winters as George Sanders

Rob Brownstein as The Acting Coach

Danielle Jane Darling as L.a. Actor #3

Mia McGovern Zaini as Young Norma Jeane

Rob Nagle as Radio Announcer

Emil Beheshti as Brentwood Doctor

Jeremy Shouldis as Tuxedo #2

Ethan Cohn as Assistant to the Director

Steve Bannos as Brentwood Doctor

Mike Ostroski as The Writer

Danielle Lima as Swimsuit Model

Christopher Kriesa as Joe E. Brown

Eric Matheny as Joseph Cotten

Jerry Hauck as Tuxedo #1

Scott Hislop as Marilyn Dancer

Dieterich Gray as Photographer's Assistant

Kiva Jump as Ward Nurse at Norwalk

Patrick Brennan as Joe

Chris Moss as Dancer

Ryan Vincent as Uncle Clive

Brian Konowal as Pissing Man

  • Andrew Dominik

Writer (novel)

  • Joyce Carol Oates

Cinematographer

  • Chayse Irvin
  • Adam Robinson
  • Warren Ellis

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2022, Biography/Drama, 2h 46m

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Critics Consensus

Ana de Armas' luminous performance makes it difficult to look away, but Blonde can be hard to watch as it teeters between commenting on exploitation and contributing to it. Read critic reviews

Audience Says

It doesn't matter how well-acted or creatively filmed it is -- watching Blonde is a really unpleasant experience. Read audience reviews

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Blonde videos, blonde   photos.

Based on the bestselling novel by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde boldly reimagines the life of one of Hollywood's most enduring icons, Marilyn Monroe. From her volatile childhood as Norma Jeane, through her rise to stardom and romantic entanglements, Blonde blurs the lines of fact and fiction to explore the widening split between her public and private selves.

Rating: NC-17 (Some Sexual Content)

Genre: Biography, Drama

Original Language: English

Director: Andrew Dominik

Producer: Dede Gardner , Jeremy Kleiner , Tracey Landon , Brad Pitt , Scott Robertson

Writer: Andrew Dominik

Release Date (Theaters): Sep 16, 2022  limited

Release Date (Streaming): Sep 28, 2022

Runtime: 2h 46m

Distributor: Netflix

Production Co: Plan B Entertainment

Cast & Crew

Ana de Armas

Marilyn Monroe

Adrien Brody

Arthur Miller

Bobby Cannavale

Joe DiMaggio

Evan Williams

Eddy G. Robinson Jr.

Xavier Samuel

Cass Chaplin

Caspar Phillipson

Julianne Nicholson

Gladys Pearl Baker

Lily Fisher

Sara Paxton

David Warshofsky

Spencer Garrett

Rebecca Wisocky

Garret Dillahunt

Scoot McNairy

Lucy DeVito

Andrew Dominik

Screenwriter

Dede Gardner

Jeremy Kleiner

Tracey Landon

Scott Robertson

Chayse Irvin

Cinematographer

Jennifer Lame

Film Editing

Adam Robinson

Florencia Martin

Production Design

Peter Andrus

Art Director

Set Decoration

Jennifer Johnson

Costume Design

Victoria Thomas

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‘Blonde’ Review: Exploiting Marilyn Monroe for Old Times’ Sake

She was an actress of uncommon talent. But once again a director is more interested in examining her body (literally, in this case) than getting inside her mind.

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movie review blonde

By Manohla Dargis

Given all the indignities and horrors that Marilyn Monroe endured during her 36 years — her family tragedies, paternal absence, maternal abuse, time in an orphanage, time in foster homes, spells of poverty, unworthy film roles, insults about her intelligence, struggles with mental illness, problems with substance abuse, sexual assault, the slavering attention of insatiable fans — it is a relief that she didn’t have to suffer through the vulgarities of “Blonde,” the latest necrophiliac entertainment to exploit her.

Hollywood has always eaten its own, including its dead. Given that the industry has also always loved making movies about its own machinery, it’s no surprise that it also likes making movies about its victims and martyrs. Three years ago in the biopic “Judy,” Renée Zellweger played Judy Garland near the end of her troubled life. “Blonde” goes for a more comprehensive biopic sweep — it runs nearly three hours — embracing a bleakly familiar trajectory that begins with Monroe’s unhappy childhood, revisits her dazzling yet progressively fraught fame, her depressingly abusive relationships, myriad health issues and catastrophic downward spiral.

After a brief prelude that introduces Marilyn at the height of her fame, the movie rewinds to the sad, lonely little girl named Norma Jeane, with a terrifying, mentally unstable single mother, Gladys (Julianne Nicholson). Childhood is a horror show — Gladys is cold, violent — but Norma Jeane crawls into adulthood (a fine if overwhelmed Ana de Armas). She models for cheesecake magazines, and before long breaks into the film industry, which is another nightmare. Soon after she steps onto a lot, she is raped by a man, here called Mr. Z and seemingly based on Darryl F. Zanuck, the longtime head of 20th Century Fox studio, where Monroe became a star.

“Blonde” is based on the 2000 Joyce Carol Oates hefty (the original hardback is 738 pages) fictionalized account of Monroe’s life. In the novel, Oates draws from the historical record but likewise plays with facts. She cooks up a ménage a trois for Monroe and channels her ostensible thoughts, including during a lurid tryst with an unkind President John F. Kennedy. In the introduction to the book, the critic Elaine Showalter writes that Oates used Monroe as “an emblem of twentieth-century America.” A woman, Showalter later adds without much conviction, “who was much more than a victim.”

The writer-director of “Blonde,” Andrew Dominik, doesn’t seem to have read that part about Monroe. His Norma Jeane — and her glamorous, vexed creation, Marilyn Monroe — is almost nothing more than a victim: As the years pass and even as her fame grows, she is mistreated again and again, even by those who claim to love her. Prey for leering men and a curiosity for smirking women (unlike Monroe, this Marilyn has no women friends), she is aware of her effect on others but also helpless to do, well, anything. With her tremulous smile, she drifts and stumbles through a life that never feels like her own.

All that’s missing from this portrait is, well, everything else, including Monroe’s personality and inner life, her intelligence, her wit and savvy and tenacity; her interest in — and knowledge of — politics; the work that she put in as an actress and the true depth of her professional ambitions. (As Anthony Summers points out in his book “Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe,” she formed her own corporation: Marilyn Monroe Productions, Inc.) Mostly, what’s missing is any sense of what made Monroe more than just another beautiful woman in Hollywood: her genius. Watching “Blonde,” I wondered if Dominik had ever actually watched a Marilyn Monroe film, had seen the transcendent talent, the brilliant comic timing, the phrasing, gestures and grace?

Fictionalized histories play with the truth, hence the hedges that filmmakers stick on movies, that they’re “inspired by” or “based on” the truth. “Blonde” doesn’t announce itself as fiction right off, though it carries the usual mealy-mouthed disclaimer in the credits. But of course this is all about Monroe, one of the most famous women of the 20th century, and it revisits her fame and life — Bobby Cannavale plays a character based on Joe DiMaggio, and Adrien Brody on Arthur Miller — with enough fidelity to suggest that Dominik is working in good faith when he’s simply exploiting her anew.

That the first image of Marilyn in “Blonde” is of her ass makes that clear. The movie opens with a short black-and-white sequence that re-creates the night Monroe filmed the most famous scene in Billy Wilder’s garish 1955 comedy, “The Seven Year Itch,” about a married man lusting after a neighbor played by Monroe. During the film, her character stands on a subway grating and coos as a gust of air twice whooshes up her pleated white dress, exposing her thighs. “The Seven Year Itch” only bares her legs, although apparently the massive crowd that watched the scene while it was being shot saw more.

As camera flash bulbs pop, flooding the screen white, Dominik shows some fleeting images of the crowd and then cuts to Marilyn as her dress billows. Her back is to the camera — the framing of the shot lops off most of her head and legs — and she’s leaning a bit forward, so that her butt is thrust toward the viewer, as if in invitation. Dominik does get around to showing her face, which is beaming as the camera points up toward Marilyn in outward supplication. The high-contrast of the images makes the color black seem bottomless (metaphor alert!) while the white is so bright that it threatens to blot her out.

For the rest of “Blonde,” Dominik keeps peeping up Marilyn’s dress, metaphorically and not, while he tries to make his filmmaking fit his subject: He uses different aspect ratios and switches between color and black-and-white (she made films in both); reproduces some of the most indelible photos of her; and now and again employs some digital wizardry, as when a bed she’s sharing with two lovers during a vigorous romp turns into a waterfall, which happens around the time Marilyn makes “Niagara.” In other words, again and again, Dominik blurs the line between her films and her life.

But by so insistently erasing the divide between these realms, Dominik ends up reducing Marilyn to the very image — the goddess, the sexpot, the pinup, the commodity — that he also seems to be trying to critique. There’s no there there to his Marilyn, just tears and trauma and sex, lots and lots of sex. It’s a baffling take, though particularly when he takes us inside Marilyn’s vagina — twice (!), once in color and once in black-and-white — while she’s having abortions. I’m still not sure if this is meant to represent the point of view of her cervix or fetuses, who also make appearances . It certainly isn’t Marilyn’s.

Dominik is so far up Marilyn Monroe’s vagina in “Blonde” that he can’t see the rest of her. It’s easy to dismiss the movie as arty trash; undoubtedly it’s a missed opportunity. Monroe’s life was tough, but there was more to it than Dominik grasps, the proof of which is in the films she left behind — “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “How to Marry a Millionaire,” “Some Like It Hot,” “The Misfits” — the whole damn filmography. To judge from “Blonde,” her performances were shaped by her agonies and somehow happened by chance, by fate, or because she’s a mystical, magical sex bomb. That’s grotesque, and it’s wrong. But if Dominik isn’t interested in or capable of understanding that Monroe was indeed more than a victim of the predations of men, it’s because, in this movie, he himself slipped into that wretched role.

Blonde Rated NC-17 for sex, nudity and substance abuse. Running time: 2 hours 46 minutes. Watch on Netflix .

Manohla Dargis has been the co-chief film critic of The Times since 2004. She started writing about movies professionally in 1987 while earning her M.A. in cinema studies at New York University, and her work has been anthologized in several books. More about Manohla Dargis

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Movie Reviews

'blonde,' the new marilyn monroe biopic, is an exercise in exploitation, not empathy.

Justin Chang

movie review blonde

Ana de Armas plays Marilyn Monroe in the Netflix film Blonde . Netflix hide caption

Ana de Armas plays Marilyn Monroe in the Netflix film Blonde .

In her New York Times pan of Norman Mailer's 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe, the critic Pauline Kael wrote, "I wish they'd let her die." I had much the same thought after watching Blonde , which focuses so narrowly on Monroe's pain and trauma that it feels less like a biographical drama than a passion play.

The movie turns Monroe into an avatar of suffering, brought low by a miserable childhood, a father she never knew and an industry full of men who abused and exploited her until her death in 1962, at the age of 36. There's truth to that story, of course, but it's hardly the only truth that can be drawn from Monroe's tough life and extraordinary career. It's also an awfully tedious note to keep hitting for nearly three hours.

For all that, I came away from Blonde with great admiration for Ana de Armas and her commitment to the role of Norma Jeane Baker, the woman who would become known all over the world as Marilyn Monroe. I felt even more admiration for Joyce Carol Oates' novel , which freely reshapes and reinvents details from Monroe's life, but offers a much more nuanced and expansive view of its subject than the writer-director Andrew Dominik manages.

'Reframed' revisits Marilyn Monroe's life and legacy, from an all-women point of view

'Reframed' revisits Marilyn Monroe's life and legacy, from an all-women point of view

The movie feels off from the start as it whisks us through Norma Jeane's difficult upbringing in 1930s Los Angeles. We meet her volatile mother, Gladys — a fierce Julianne Nicholson — who's diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized when Norma Jeane is still a child. Blonde skips over a lot of details, including Norma Jeane's time in foster care and her first marriage, and fast-forwards to her experience as a pin-up model, which leads to her start in motion pictures.

De Armas' transformation into Monroe goes well beyond a breathy whisper and a peroxide dye job; she plays up Norma Jeane's kindness and her naive, unassuming nature. That leaves her ill prepared for an industry that degrades her from the get-go, starting with a Hollywood mogul who rapes her in his office at their first meeting.

Everyone she works with is condescending to her, even though she's much harder-working and more intellectually curious about her material than anyone gives her credit for. She also maintains ties with her mother, visiting her in the hospital and asking about the identity of her father, who, she's been led to believe, was a famous Hollywood actor himself.

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Giant marilyn monroe statue returns to palm springs, but its backside faces backlash.

According to Blonde , Norma Jeane's persistent daddy issues are to blame for her string of bad romances, starting with a bizarre and wholly fictional threesome with two hunky Hollywood descendants, Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson Jr. And then there are her famously ill-fated marriages to Joe DiMaggio, played by Bobby Cannavale, and Arthur Miller, played by Adrien Brody .

Along the way, she has multiple pregnancies, and there are graphic depictions of Norma Jeane having an abortion and, later, a miscarriage. Blonde suggests that Monroe desperately wanted a child, to become the loving, supportive mother she herself never had. But it depicts this desire in a way that's frankly ridiculous: The movie keeps flashing back to closeups of a fetus in Norma Jeane's womb, shimmering like the Star Child from 2001 .

Monroe's Legacy Is Making Fortune, But For Whom?

Monroe's Legacy Is Making Fortune, But For Whom?

Dominik has always been an artful filmmaker, and Blonde is full of lustrous images, shot in a mix of color and black-and-white, that sometimes beautifully evoke vintage Monroe photographs. And it has brooding music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, who also scored the director's great 2007 western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Like that film, Blonde feels like a slow-motion death march: It's The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe by Basically Everyone She Ever Met . There are fleeting moments of joy and lightness along the way, especially when de Armas re-enacts bits of Monroe's famous performances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot . But even when Dominik recreates these classic Hollywood moments, he's quick to cancel out our pleasure: Even the famous subway-grate sequence from The Seven Year Itch has to be stretched into a crushing lament for how endlessly brutalized this woman was.

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Blonde clearly wants us to feel for Norma Jeane, but it dwells on her pain so obsessively — never more so than when she's shown being sexually assaulted by President Kennedy — that the movie's empathy feels like another form of exploitation. Marilyn Monroe may have been a glossy Hollywood construct, one that Norma Jeane herself had a hand in creating. But Blonde is too thuddingly repetitive — and finally, unimaginative — to bring us any closer to understanding the woman behind that construct. It left me feeling that Monroe deserved better, not just from the industry that chewed her up and spat her out, but from any filmmaker hoping to make sense of her legacy.

Blonde Is Garish, Unfair, and No Fun At All

Ana de Armas's screen glories will come. They aren't here.

preview for Blonde - Official Trailer (Netflix)

Not one of the directors who provided the roles that brought out her incandescence, what George Cukor called “her absolutely unerring sense of comedy,” or the others who, in Don’t Bother to Knock and especially in the astounding Niagara found something hard, dark, mean? Not any of the photographers, male and female, who, creating some of the most indelible images of the 20th Century, often spoke of her more as a collaborator than as a camera subject? Not Whitey Snyder, the loyal friend who did her makeup from her first screen test at Twentieth Century Fox in 1946 to her funeral in 1962? Not any of her husbands in any private moment? Not Arthur Miller’s father, who Marilyn called every week even after her divorce from his son? Not one of the moviegoers who, from the time she made her presence felt in cheesecake photos and then in movies right up the moment you are reading with, has never ceased to delight in this singular creature?

blonde ana de armas as marilyn monroe cr netflix © 2022

I don’t know if it’s possible to create a savior fantasy in which the whole point is that the protagonist is doomed but it’s the hubris of both Dominik, who adapted the novel as well as directed and, in that novel, Oates to position themselves as the ones who are able to get past the fantasies and slanders of the studio moguls and directors and paparazzi and gossip columnists and hangers on and pimps and controlling husbands and see poor Marilyn—sorry, Norma Jeane—for who she was. And what do they see? A woman who spent her life searching for the father she never had, haunted by the abandonment of a mother who went mad.

No kidding. That’s what they’ve come up with.

Blonde, laid out in shifting aspect ratios and film stock, distorted lenses, switching from color to black & white, is a garish expressionistic illustration of what was already in Oates’ novel: claptrap Freudianism, victimization feminism, and the moral shock over the squalidness of Hollywood that, whether it’s being sold via scandal sheets or novels with a literary pedigree, never fails to attract people who want to indulge their own sanctimonious voyeurism. Oates, the most morbid of celebrated American writers, has always filtered her tabloid sensibility through a cold high-Gothic approach that affords her literary cache while fending off charges of sensationalism. It’s a decidedly anti-sensual approach and particularly unsuited to a figure as sensual as Marilyn Monroe—unless your goal is to depict Marilyn as nothing but a victim trafficked by powerful men and then used up by us, the public who, going to her movies, thrilled by her photo shoots, charmed or turned on or just made happy by the fact of her, were little more than her johns.

blonde ana de armas as marilyn monroe cr netflix © 2022

Blonde proceeds through a flash-card chronology in which Marilyn, played by Ana de Armas, is used or abused by, in turn, her mad mother; the studio system (when she goes for her interview at 20 th Century Fox with Darryl Zanuck he rapes her); the two sexually ambiguous sons of Hollywood stars—Charlie Chaplin, Jr. and Edward G. Robinson, Jr.—who form a throuple with Marilyn while using her for what they can get; her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, played by Bobby Cannavale and referred to in the movie’s mythic terms as “the Ex-Athlete” who regards her movie career as little more than prostitution; her third husband, Arthur Miller (“the Playwright”) played by Adrien Brody, who worries about what being married to a sex symbol does to his intellectual status; and of course the public, never presented as individuals who, by themselves, might act rudely or kindly or starstruck but as a uniformly voracious and threatening mass.

When Oates recreated the famous New York City nighttime location shoot for The Seven Year Itch where Marilyn stood on the subway grating while her dress was blown up around her, she described it like the climactic scene in The Day of the Locust (the touchstone Hollywood novel for people who hate Hollywood), a movie premiere that turns into a riot. As Oates wrote it, it was a human sacrifice in the making. The one person in the crowd who doesn’t want to devour Marilyn, DiMaggio, beats her when she returns to their hotel because he thinks she displayed herself like a whore.

Dominik shoots the scene in much the same way. It’s one of several times in the movie where the crowds turned out to see Marilyn, here overwhelmingly men, are shot in harsh glaring black-and-white, their open screaming mouths distended to appear like maws, like the onlookers in a Weegee photo. The movie tells us that Marilyn is being exploited for the sake of this rabble. But who’s doing the exploiting when Dominik sticks his camera up Marilyn’s dress so that de Armas’s behind fills the screen (giving us a view no one on Lexington Avenue and 52nd St had on that night in 1954)? Who’s doing the exploiting when, in a later scene, Marilyn is summoned to New York to service JFK and, as the President pushes her head down onto his crotch, there is a repeated shot of de Armas, eyes tearing and nearly gagging as her head bobs up and down in the frame?

blonde l to r bobby cannavale as the ex athlete  ana de armas as marilyn monroe cr netflix © 2022

I’m not doubting that Marilyn was subjected to all kinds of boorish behavior or that JFK treated her as callously as any of his other trophy lays. My argument is not with what Blonde is about—the exploitation of this singular star—but with how it’s about what it’s about. We see Marilyn, having undergone an abortion in order to star in Gentleman Prefer Blondes , saying of the acclaim showered on her at the movie’s premiere, “For this I killed my baby?”, surely a line to confirm every certainty in Samuel Alito’s meager little soul. It’s not that there’s something inherently retrograde about suggesting a woman might regret having an abortion but when we’re given a line like that, or later when Marilyn is expecting Miller’s baby and Dominik introduces a talking fetus—I swear to God—asking if mommy will kill him too, the movie is dealing in the cheapest Operation Rescue tactics.

Blonde has been talked about as if it were going to be Ana de Armas’s breakout role and I wouldn’t trust anybody who’s seen her work before this and not been excited by the prospect of what’s to come. Her sequence in No Time to Die , both when she’s engaging in badinage with Daniel Craig and then joining him to fight off the bad guys, showed a real sense for play. She made everything she did look like a good time, and she suggested that she might be one of those rare movie presences who’s at her sexiest when being funny. Here, her rendition of the breathy Marilyn voice we know from the movies and her physical bearing in the photographs and film sequences that Dominik recreates are often startlingly precise. But there’s no room for her to play beyond those imitations. De Armas has been directed to play Marilyn as if Marilyn were a Marilyn Monroe character. And that is the film’s point. Blonde wants us to believe Marilyn has been swallowed up by the screen persona, leaving nothing behind but gestures and inflections. This Marilyn is a breathless doll who exists solely as a plaything for the powerful.

So you can’t feel insulted for her when a casting director scorns her claim that she’s read Dostoevsky or when Miller thinks she’s been fed a line comparing one of his plays to Chekov (you’d have to be fed a line to make that claim). Dominik, though, seems to think we will be, not seeing his far greater insult. De Armas has some fine moments when Marilyn prepares to speak in auditions, when you feel her summoning the power to make the scene real, and when Marilyn and Miller first meet, she and Brody are allowed an extended scene in which they can connect with each other and communicate the pleasure in this unexpected introduction without any interference from Dominik. But de Armas has been given a thesis to play, not a character. Her screen glories will come. They aren’t here.

blonde ana de armas as marilyn monroe cr netflix © 2022

Blonde , both movie and book, seem awfully taken by the notion that “Marilyn Monroe” was a creation. Do Oates and Dominik think the movies are meant to be real? And don’t they understand just how real the movies can seem? In one of the greatest films ever made, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo , a detective falls in love with a woman and then, when she dies, tries to remake her in another woman. The detective finds out the woman he loved never really existed in the first place, she was made up to lure him into a plot. And yet he’s real to her. He’s held her in his arms and kissed her. And for us in the audience who have only seen this woman as shadows and light projected on a screen, she’s no less real. Of course, Marilyn Monroe was made up and of course she was real. That’s what art is—the fictive, the created striking a chord in us to produce real emotion. Would Oates think the characters in her novels are less because they’re fictions? And why is Dominik, a movie director, buying into this nonsense?

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Blonde , book and movie, is that neither Oates or Dominik seem to even like Marilyn that much. There is scarcely a mention of a performance in Oates’s novel unmarked by the scorn she pours on how the film was received by the crude public. Marilyn can’t even sneak disguised into a theater to watch The Seven Year Itch without being driven away by a man masturbating a few seats over from her. And in a remarkably revealing interview with Dominik in the current issue of the British film magazine Sight & Sound , the interviewer Christina Newland writes in her intro that Dominik “seems genuinely gobsmacked when I tell him many of my friends and colleagues watch—and enjoy— Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), which he regards, like most of Monroe’s films, as what he calls “cultural artefacts.” A director still early in his career regards the work of, among others, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Henry Hathaway, and John Huston as no more than cultural artefacts? Jump up and down Andy and let us hear ‘em clank together.

Oates’s novel is 738 pages in its current paperback edition. Dominik’s movie is two hours and forty-six minutes. Those respective lengths are not the result of an expansive vision or a gathering cumulative force. They are the result of their creators’ determination, by sheer volume and repetition, to bludgeon the audience into accepting their puny, constricted view of Marilyn Monroe. There isn’t, in a page of Oates’ novel or a moment of Dominik’s film, that contains a laugh, a smile, a grace note. And yet they put forth this grinding grimness in what seems clearly intended to be a feminist statement.

blonde ana de armas as marilyn monroe cr netflix © 2022

But when you deny a character’s capacity for pleasure and joy; when, her famous fragility notwithstanding, you take away every bit of her ability to make her own decisions; when (as Newland confronted Dominik with) you leave out the facts that Marilyn started her own production company, that she publicly supported Miller when he was being hounded by HUAC, that she used her celebrity to get Ella Fitzgerald a headlining engagement in a Hollywood club when Black singers weren’t given those gigs; when you reduce her talent to nothing more than lewd sex jokes and tawdry exploitation; when you insist that the happiness and pleasure and yes, the love that people have felt for her for seventy years is nothing more than the collective gross appetite of the lumpen; when you put forth that view even though your protagonist is one of the most famous women in the world and the public record is there to refute you; when you reduce someone’s artistry to the machinations of a dumb-bunny sex robot then who is it that’s using Marilyn Monroe to fulfill their fantasies and prejudices and favored shibboleths? Among the many not-very-bright things Dominik says in that Sight & Sound interview, there’s this: “She was the Aphrodite of the 20th century, the American goddess of love. And she killed herself. So what does that mean?” Clearly, for both Dominik and Oates, it means that Marilyn died for our collective sexist sins. I’ll be damned if I accept any vision of Marilyn Monroe from these two, both so eager to perform their own sordid crucifixion.

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Blonde Wants to Hurt You

Portrait of Bilge Ebiri

“In the movies, they chop you all to bits,” Ana de Armas’s Marilyn Monroe says about halfway through Blonde . “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, but you’re not the one to put it together.” She’s supposedly talking about the way all movies are put together, but of course, it’s also a thinly veiled reference to the way this particular movie has been put together. Or rather, not put together: Andrew Dominik’s Blonde is, in effect, a jigsaw puzzle about Norma Jeane Mortenson and Marilyn Monroe that has been left purposefully incomplete, seen in captivating and terrifying fragments. And it’s chopped her to bits, almost literally. From the flashbulbs and klieg lights and cables surrounding Marilyn that open the film to the endless cruelties enacted upon her body and soul, it’s a movie about the creation and fragmentation of identity. And it is brutal, its lush surfaces and old Hollywood recreations almost always giving way to unspeakable horrors.

It’s also, to be clear, fiction. Blonde is based on Joyce Carol Oates’s 2000 novel, which takes many, many liberties with the lives of Marilyn and others. The film doesn’t purport to be factual, and besides, it’s such a stylized journey through this character’s life that it’d be hard to come up with any biographical timeline from it. (And if one did, it’d likely be incorrect.) Those looking for a biopic about Marilyn Monroe are sure to be disappointed, confused, and/or outraged, which may explain why Netflix has been so cautious about anybody seeing it up until its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Regardless, the picture will surely fuel endless rounds of soul-pulverizing debates. In fact, it’s kind of designed to, loaded as it is with provocations.

Blonde begins with Norma Jeane as a young girl being told by her emotionally fragile, alcoholic single mother Gladys (Julianne Nicholson, in an unforgettable performance) that her real father was a very important man with a very important name. A photo of him, a dashing figure with hat and mustache, hangs above Gladys’s bed. Armed simply with the clue that her father is a big shot who lives in the Hollywood hills, Norma Jeane will spend the remainder of her days looking for this man, both in the real world and through her relationships with men, many of whom she calls “daddy.”

Dominik has structured the film largely around impeccable recreations of images from Marilyn’s career, but each recreation then gives way to something terrifying. Blonde is filled with beautiful sequences followed by images that cause actual pain to watch. The famous subway-grate sequence from The Seven Year Itch effectively becomes an extended, slow-motion public peep show, as an endless sea of photographers and onlookers gawk at her. The song “Bye, Bye Baby” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes becomes a reference to the abortion she reluctantly has in order to do the picture (and also because she fears her mother’s madness might be genetic). Norma Jeane seeks love and acceptance through the image of Marilyn, which then gives the public access to the most intimate corners of her life. The film claims that access, too. It even goes … into her cervix to show the aforementioned abortion. Like I said, the movie hurts.

The three central romantic relationships here — a delirious, extended threesome with gorgeous Hollywood scions Charles Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edward G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams); a physically abusive marriage to Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale); an emotionally codependent marriage to Arthur Miller (a wonderfully brooding Adrien Brody) — all speak to her ongoing efforts to define herself. The sons of movie stars may feel the oppressive pressure of having famous fathers, but to Norma Jeane, they at least know exactly who they are. DiMaggio has used baseball to create a character in a way similar to Marilyn. (“I’m one of the winners of the American lottery,” he declares.) And Miller is, in his own way, also searching: He’s trying to find a certain Magda that he loved in his childhood; he finds her in Marilyn, whom he calls “my Magda,” while she finds yet another version of “daddy” in him. And these men all claim different kinds of ownership over her. The juniors explore her sexually. DiMaggio beats her mercilessly. Miller takes her words and puts them into his plays without telling her.

Whether in marriage or in other affairs, Norma Jeane rarely has any agency. The ground never feels safe under her feet. She is presented for the constant salivation of men, their enormous eyes leering and surreally engorged mouths gaping. And those are just the bystanders. When she’s introduced to studio head “Mr. Z” (presumably, Daryl Zanuck), he immediately bends her over and rapes her; I don’t think he even bothers to say hello. Later, she will be ferried into John F. Kennedy’s hotel room by two Secret Service agents, who at one point actually lift her a few inches off the floor as they deliver her (in her words, like “a piece of meat”) to the president, who then makes her fellate him (in close-up) while he watches coverage of nuclear missiles on TV and listens to a man (J. Edgar Hoover, one assumes) berate him over the phone for allegations of sexual impropriety. Afterward, Marilyn is carried out again, groggy and wounded, the camera drifting and spinning around her. At times, the movie feels like a slaughterhouse seen from the animal’s point of view.

There’s something repetitive about all this, to be sure, but Blonde is never tedious or boring. Dominik’s visual and sonic imagination work overtime to turn each sequence into an expressionistic and expressive journey, gorgeously shot dream-factory fantasies slipping into labyrinthine horrors. (The drifting, gently wailing score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis helps, too.) But also, Ana de Armas wins us over. Her performance is not quite what one might expect. She’s certainly committed fully to a part that requires intense physicality, tons of nudity, and tears. And she expertly mimics Monroe’s half-breathless style of speaking. But she still has traces of her accent, which the film doesn’t hide. That gives the whole endeavor a somewhat performative quality … which, of course, is the point of the movie. Ana de Armas doesn’t inhabit the role of Marilyn Monroe. Rather, the role of Marilyn Monroe inhabits Ana de Armas — like a tortured, possibly malevolent spirit.

Blonde is beautiful, mesmerizing, and, at times, deeply moving. But it’s also alienating — again, by design — constantly turning the camera on the viewer, sometimes with Marilyn directly addressing it. That’s going to be a tough sell, especially for a film that’s so nonlinear and elliptical. (The two semi-biopics I was reminded of were Michael Mann’s Ali and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson , both challenging meditations on the brutal cost of self-actualization.) But somewhere at the movie’s core, for all the ghastly horrors it holds, is a deeply relatable idea. Norma Jeane’s search for a nonexistent father, and the various substitutes she finds along the way, winds and winds and winds (and winds and winds) until it becomes something far more cosmic about the search for belonging in the maze-like heartbreak of this world. For those of us who connect with that idea, the film will do more than hurt us — it will destroy us.

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Blonde review: a striking and tough Marilyn Monroe biopic

Alex Welch

Andrew Dominik’s Blonde opens, quite fittingly, with the flashing of bulbs. In several brief, twinkling moments, we see a rush of images: cameras flashing, spotlights whirring to life, men roaring with excitement (or anger — sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference), and at the center of it all is her, Marilyn Monroe (played by Ana de Armas ), striking her most iconic pose as a gust of wind blows up her white dress. It’s an opening that makes sense for a film about a fictionalized version of Monroe’s life, one that firmly roots the viewer in the world and space of a movie star. But to focus only on de Armas’ Marilyn is to miss the point of Blonde ’s opening moments.

Not your usual biopic

A technical triumph, a great lead performance, less is more.

As the rest of Dominik’s bold, imperfect film proves, Blonde is not just about the recreation of iconic moments, nor is it solely about the making of Monroe’s greatest career highlights. It is, instead, about exposure and, in specific, the act of exposing yourself — for art, for fame, for love — and the ways in which the world often reacts to such raw vulnerability. In the case of Blonde , we’re shown how a world of men took advantage of Monroe’s vulnerability by attempting to control her image and downplay her talent.

Blonde does not always succeed at correcting that very sin. There are moments when Dominik, unfortunately, seems to be further playing into the over-sexualization and infantilization of Monroe that has run rampant for decades, and which attempts to render her as nothing more than a naïve sexpot without any agency of her own. But there are also moments in which Blonde feels like it wants nothing more than to honor Monroe not just as a movie star for the ages, but as a brave and capable artist.

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Blonde , which is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ divisive 2000 novel of the same name, does not attempt to tell the true story of Marilyn Monroe’s life. Instead, what the film presents is an impressionistic portrait of how Norma Jeane Mortenson, the woman who became the movie star known as Marilyn Monroe, was used and abused by the very people who were supposed to protect and support her. The film’s culprits are many and wide-ranging — covering everyone from Marilyn’s abusive and emotionally unstable mother (Julianne Nicholson) to the retired baseball star who became her second husband (played by Bobby Cannavale) and, eventually, the leader of the free world himself (Caspar Phillipson).

Nearly everyone in the film is based upon people from Monroe’s real life, but its depictions of them are, at times, greatly separate from reality. It’s important to note that up front because, for some viewers, the film’s decision to envision Monroe’s life as being potentially more traumatic than it really was may simply be seen as too big of an ask. For others, like myself, the film’s lies may only help the truths about Monroe’s life and legacy — both the painful and euphoric ones — cut that much deeper. The film, to its credit, doesn’t try to present itself as a grounded biopic, either.

Clocking in at a whopping 166 minutes, Blonde floats through its story, adopting a leisurely pace and editorial style that actively bucks against any kind of traditional narrative structure. Watching it doesn’t feel like you’re being led through a typical three-act story but rather a neverending montage that only occasionally stops along the way to painstakingly recreate iconic images from Monroe’s career. There are certain scenes, in fact, where it’s hard to tell whether you’re watching de Armas’ version of Monroe or stock footage of the real woman, which only further heightens the disorienting effect that Blonde frequently achieves.

Dominik, who has always been prone to visual experimentation, also uses practically every aspect ratio known to man throughout Blonde . The film, therefore, not only repeatedly switches back and forth from pristine black and white photography to technicolor, but it does so while also flipping between vast widescreen 16:9 images and smaller 4:3 compositions. At times, these instances of visual invention feel random, as if they exist solely to further disorient and detach you from reality. In other moments, they feel purposeful and calculated.

Look, for instance, at how the film’s aspect ratio changes on the night Marilyn expects to meet her long-lost father. The film briefly becomes a widescreen picture as Marilyn walks into her hotel room, reflecting the emotional importance she has placed on the moment. Notice then how the aspect ratio begins to shrink, the scope of the scene slowly, visually dwindling, once she realizes it’s not her father waiting for her but Cannavale’s former ballplayer. Notice further how — in a moment of subtle but precise physical acting — Cannavale’s hand slowly surrounds de Armas’ neck as he professes his love for her, his own body unknowingly foreshadowing their relationship’s toxic and abusive future.

Working with cinematographer Chayse Irvin and editor Adam Robinson, Dominik also fills Blonde with some of the most ingeniously constructed dreamlike images you’ll see in a movie this year. One scene, in specific, comes early on in Blonde and finds de Armas’ Norma Jeane gripping the edge of a bed in a moment of sexual ecstasy. As she does, the bedsheets, which spill down the side of the bed, slowly and impossibly transform into Niagara Falls. Dominik then uses this moment to transition from a mid-afternoon tryst to a promotional trailer for the 1953 noir gem, Niagara . Playing over all of these scenes, meanwhile, is Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ ethereal, otherworldly score , which not only ranks as one of the year’s best but also lifts Blonde ‘s overwhelming tragic mood to cosmic heights.

At the center of Blonde ’s many surreal images and nightmarish sequences, though, is Ana de Armas, whose performance as Marilyn Monroe feels perfectly calibrated for the film she’s in. The actress looks strikingly similar to Monroe throughout all of Blonde , but much like the film itself, there is an ever-present, often haunting discontent between de Armas and the woman she’s playing.

Part of that has to do with de Armas’ real-life Cuban accent, which never fades even in the moments when the actress herself is leaning all the way into Monroe’s breathy way of speaking. There is also a raw quality to de Armas’ performance, which not only rises to the top of Blonde ’s many emotionally difficult scenes but also imbues the moments when she is recreating Monroe’s work in films like Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with added touches of tragedy and rage.

Her performance allows de Armas to predictably outshine nearly everyone else that appears opposite her in Blonde . Adrien Brody does, however, make a heartfelt, quiet mark with his lovestruck performance as Arthur Miller, the celebrated playwright who became Monroe’s third husband. Together, Brody and de Armas create a palpable, romantic warmth that permeates throughout Blonde ’s most emotionally bright, if not entirely happy, section.

As Marilyn, de Armas leaves next to nothing on the table, but the film asks too much of her and frequently fails to rise to her level. That’s evidenced by the fact that there are simply too many scenes in Blonde — especially in its second half — that require de Armas to be either topless or fully naked, a detail that threatens to further endorse the over-sexualization that has long plagued Monroe’s legacy. In order to communicate her inner longing and loneliness, Dominik also has de Armas’ Monroe constantly refer to every man in her life as “daddy,” which is a decision that could have been tolerable had it been used a bit more sparingly.

De Armas’ frequent use of “daddy” is ultimately a symptom of Dominik’s own inability to sense the moments when less would, indeed, be more. The same can be said for the multiple instances where Dominik’s camera goes inside Monroe’s belly to show CGI versions of her unborn children as they speak to her (yes, literally ). The film also features a handful of terribly on-the-nose music cues, including the time when “Bye Bye Baby” begins to play just seconds after de Armas’ Monroe has been coerced into having an abortion that she didn’t want.

These missteps are just a few of the imperfections that prevent Blonde from being as tonally and narratively successful as, say, Dominik’s 2007 directorial effort, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford . However, they’re not egregious enough to render Blonde a wholly unsuccessful endeavor. As a matter of fact, Dominik still tells a moving story of loneliness, regret, and emotional yearning with Blonde , a film that feels less like an outlandish Hollywood dream and more like a nightmarish descent into a dark void.

The film achieves that effect whenever it shifts its focus away from Monroe’s sex symbol status and more toward her merits as a performer and artist. In Blonde , Monroe is both a young woman searching for the father figure she never knew and an intelligent, talented artist who wants nothing more than to be given as much as she gives. It should go without saying which of those aspects of Blonde ’s Marilyn prove to be more compelling, but the film’s occasionally uneven handling of her legacy doesn’t stop its ideas about celebrity — both the costs and requirements of it — from ringing loud and clear.

In the end, it isn’t Blonde ’s various homages to Marilyn Monroe’s real-life career that prove to be its most fruitful moments, either. Instead, it’s the quietest scenes that end up leaving the biggest marks, like one that comes late in the film and follows de Armas as she desperately searches her house for a tip only to find her delivery boy long gone by the time she’s returned to give it to him. Pay attention in this scene to the way that de Armas’ hand lingers in the air, the five dollars still clutched in her palm, even after she realizes that there’s no one on the other side of her gate. It’s a specific kind of heartbreak, realizing only too late that you have yet to find someone willing to put in as much effort for you as you would for them.

Blonde is playing in select theaters now. It premieres Wednesday, September 28 on Netflix.

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Pearl is a candy-coated piece of rotten fruit. The film, which is director Ti West’s prequel to this year's X, trades in the desaturated look and 1970s seediness of its parent film for a lurid, Douglas Sirk-inspired aesthetic that seems, at first, to exist incongruently with its story of intense violence and horror. But much like its titular protagonist, whose youthful beauty and Southern lilt masks the monster within, there’s a poison lurking beneath Pearl’s vibrant colors and seemingly untarnished Depression-era America setting.

Set around 60 years before X, West’s new prequel does away with the por nstars, abandoned farms, and eerie old folks that made its predecessor’s horror influences clear and replaces them with poor farmers, charming film projectionists, and young women with big dreams. Despite those differences, Pearl still feels like a natural follow-up to X. The latter film, with its use of split screens and well-placed needle drops, offered a surprisingly dark rumination on the horror of old age. Pearl, meanwhile, explores the loss of innocence and, in specific, the often terrifying truths that remain after one’s dreams have been unceremoniously ripped away from them.

The Woman King opens purposefully and violently. The film’s first sequence, which brings to life a brutal battle from its sudden beginning all the way to its somber end, is a master class in visual storytelling. Not only does it allow director Gina Prince-Bythewood to, once again, prove her worth as a capable action filmmaker, but it also introduces The Woman King’s central all-female army, sets up the film’s core conflict, and introduces nearly every important character that you’ll need to know for the two hours that follow it. The fact that The Woman King does all of this within the span of a few short minutes just makes its opening sequence all the more impressive.

The level of impressive craftsmanship in The Woman King’s memorably violent prologue is present throughout the entirety of its 135-minute runtime. For that reason, the film often feels like a throwback to an era that seems to reside farther in the past than it actually does, one when it was common for all the major Hollywood studios to regularly put out historical epics that were, if nothing else, reliably well-made and dramatically engaging.

The opening narration of See How They Run, which comes courtesy of Adrien Brody’s ill-fated Leo Köpernick, doesn’t just tell you what kind of movie it is. Brody’s sardonic voice-over also makes it clear that See How They Run knows exactly what kind of a story it’s telling, and so do its characters. As Köpernick is killed by an unknown assailant in See How They Run’s prologue, Brody’s voice even dryly remarks: “I should have seen this coming. It’s always the most unlikable character that gets killed first.”

In a less charming film, See How They Run’s streak of self-aware comedy would wear thin quickly. However, the new film from director Tom George is able to, for the most part, strike the right balance between tongue-in-cheek humor, mystery, and genuine sweetness. The film is a lean, not-particularly-mean whodunit, one that lacks the acidic strain of humor present in some of cinema’s other great murder mysteries, including 2019’s Knives Out, but which still boasts the kind of playful spirit that is at the heart of so many of its notable genre predecessors.

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‘Blonde’ Review: Andrew Dominik’s Miserable Marilyn Monroe Portrait Only Further Tarnishes the Star

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Images of Marilyn Monroe are the most replicated of any actress to emerge since the dawn of cinema. Her peroxide curls, cupid’s bow pout, and va-va-voom figure are recognizable to the point that her marketing potential has long since overwhelmed the matter of who she was as a person. To take a swing at saying — or showing —  something resonant about the woman born Norma Jeane Mortenson, a storyteller would have to go to lengths far greater than Andrew Dominik is able to span in his bizarre, miserabilist biopic.

Much like Asaf Kapadia did with his documentary, “Amy,” 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.

Well, not quite all, as “Blonde” sets out to show a lifetime of victimization and exploitation. The film is Dominik’s finger pointed at everyone who had a hand traumatizing his leading lady, from her mother trying to drown her in the bath aged 7 to her death from an overdose of barbiturates at 36 after being used and abused by the Hollywood machine.

Drawing from Joyce Carol Oates’ impressionistic “fictionalized” novel of the same name, Dominik brings to life chronological snapshots of the worst moments in Monroe’s life, focusing on the yearning she felt as result of having an absent father and a mentally ill mother, the pregnancies that never led to babies, and the violence and cruelty she suffered at the hands of powerful men. It’s safe to say Dominik will not receive a Christmas card from either the JFK or the Joe DiMaggio estate this year.

Blonde, Ana de Armas

Star Ana de Armas ’ uncanny resemblance to Marilyn takes the film a long way. If Dominik had thought as much about actually interpreting his character opposed to resurrecting her physically, “Blonde” could have a tour de force. Famous archive photographs of Marilyn wearing a black turtleneck and cropped trousers, a white dress with a plunging neckline, and even when she cheerfully posed naked are amongst the painstakingly recreated looks given locomotion by De Armas with the help of blue contact lenses and a wig. (Gary Archer is credited for dental prosthetics, suggesting just how far measures were taken to create the eerie doppelgänger, all the way into her mouth.)

The film is obsessed with Monroe’s wide-eyed beauty, and it is apt to capture the quality that enabled Norma to become Marilyn, giving her a passport out of poverty and, on the flip-side, luring in predators of all descriptions. Yet, close-up after close-up after close-up eventually starts to feel less like a knowing nod to her powers, and more like the director trying to have his cake and eat it.

DOP Chayse Irvin does powerful work when the script allows him to capture something other than feminine charms. One early tableau from Norma’s childhood features her mother Gladys (Julianne Nicholson) in the background, framed through a latticed door as she plays the piano while, in the foreground, a faded poster of Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” flaps on the wall. Shortly afterwards a fire rages throughout the neighborhood. Little Norma and Gladys drive through the flames, while the “HOLLYWOOD” sign sits in the horizon, untouched by the carnage, symbolizing the possibility of something better.

As interpreted through Dominik (who also adapted the screenplay himself), Norma will never reach that something better, not even for a second. He defines her strictly through what she does not have — direction, love, a dad — resulting in a gaping lack to De Armas’ earnestly committed performance; she is playing a character with no autonomy. Her task — which she carries off beautifully, tearfully, and often toplessly — is to show the wounds inflicted on her, like sentient memory foam.

Blonde, Ana de Armas

“Like watching a mental patient. Not acting. Not technique,” comments one member of the production after the then-unknown Marilyn’s emotional audition for “Don’t Bother To Knock” (1952). Dominik never presents an alternate account for his leading lady’s acting prowess, nor salutes her own role in her image creation. Her time as a diligent student with Lee Strasberg is reduced down to an oft-flashed back to black-and-white sequence of Marilyn and other students repeating a line about “carrying a circle of light.” He presents her as someone for whom acting was an innate untutored gift, rather than as a student intent on mastering her craft. She is a savant, a babe in the woods, a Balthazar the donkey with ass to spare.

A motif running through “Blonde” is the distinction between Norma, who is real, and Marilyn, who is not. Norma is clear that she is not Marilyn and craves male companions who see beyond the sex symbol alter-ego that she slips on and off. As her career is taking off, she falls into a menage a trois with rakish dissolutes, Charlie Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edward G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams) for what will prove the high watermark of her relationships with men.

All three are beautiful people who share a pervasive sadness as a result of being abandoned. Per EGR, “We’re the juniors of men who never wanted us.” All do their utmost to sublimate sorrow through the pleasures of the flesh. One fabulous transition involves an orgasming Norma, head thrown back, clasping at a bed that becomes waterfalls overlaid by the title cards for “Niagara.” The phrase, “A RAGING TORRENT OF EMOTION,” fills the cinema screen as Norma watches nervously in the audience.

Blonde, Ana de Armas

Dominik’s visual flourishes are not always as successful. There has been early hype about the “womb camera” as we see the world from the POV of an unborn baby. This, at least, has the merit of being camp. More tedious is the over-reliance on slow-motion shots of Marilyn overwhelmed by crowds of snarling paparazzi to the sound of camera bulbs flashing. Dominik really wants to put across that she was oppressed through both force and neglect, and over-uses flashbacks to both a sexual assault and a photograph of the man her mum presented as her dad. A relentless sound design by the usually exquisite Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is misjudged, steamrolling through a film that already lacks nuance.

As Norma becomes increasingly troubled and fearful of ending up like her mother, hope is kept alive by letters that sporadically arrive from a man who signs off as her “tearful daddy.” He dangles the possibility of their meeting without ever committing to a date. These letters move her more than her marriage to either an abusive Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale) or a gentile Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), much older men whom she addresses as “Daddy” in an act of Technicolor displacement. The Miller marriage is the only other reprieve presented in her sprint towards the grave, and Brody delivers a gentle intellectualism that feels like a port in a storm.

It’s not that Andrew Dominik has made an implausible film about the experience of a poor young beauty haunted by fears of madness who was chewed up by the Hollywood machine, the issue is that he has made a film inspired by Marilyn Monroe where she is monotonously characterized as a victim. To watch any of her movies is to feast on a luminous performer whose intelligence is sublimated beneath a knowingly hypnotic physical affect. Her legacy is still best preserved through her talents, rather than through a film that might as well be another face printed by Andy Warhol’s factory — an X-rayed version, so that instead of bright pop art colors, the stencil is simply of a skull.

“Blonde” premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. Netflix will release the film in select theaters on Friday, September 16 and on its streaming platform on  Wednesday, September 28.

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Review: ‘Blonde’ isn’t really about Marilyn Monroe. It’s about making her suffer

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There’s at least one moment in “Blonde,” Andrew Dominik’s dazzling, depressing and fatally incurious movie about Marilyn Monroe, when you might not be sure if you’re watching Ana de Armas or the genuine article. Watching this lustrous black-and-white sequence, set during the production of “Some Like It Hot” (1959), I was briefly certain that was the real Monroe boop-boop-be-dooping her way through “I Wanna Be Loved by You,” so evocatively does De Armas narrow her gaze (her eyes are the big giveaway) and drink in the milky adoration of the spotlight. Only the absence of that teasing shadow on her dress, the one that mimics a rising and falling neckline, gives the game away.

Even in these times of Oscar-grubbing biopic overload, a moment like that has to count as some kind of achievement. It takes more than crimson lips, swiveling hips and a platinum dye job to incarnate this most enduring of 20th century movie stars, even if Monroe was reduced to her physical attributes for too much of her short life and extraordinary career. People insisted she couldn’t act; studios typecast her as a dumb blond, a setback she partly overcame through sly wit and brilliant comic timing. In time, she became an icon, but even that overused word, “icon,” can feel diminishing after a while. It relegates Monroe’s greatness to the level of surfaces and publicity and indiscriminate goddess worship, as if her beauty could be somehow disentangled from her singular greatness — her genius — as an actor.

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De Armas doesn’t get nearly enough opportunities to tap into that greatness. Radiantly sympathetic in scene after scene, she delivers a strong, intensely felt performance in a movie that doesn’t begin to earn it, that insists on squeezing her sometimes eerie channeling of Monroe’s image into the puniest possible dramatic mold. Dominik seems to have directed De Armas to lead with her tremulous vulnerability, to drift through the movie in blurred states of fragility, anxiety and panic. She steps into pitch-perfect re-creations of vintage Monroe photographs, sometimes fixing us with a half-pleading, half-conspiratorial smile. She does a sustained approximation of Monroe’s breathily seductive voice, sometimes with unmistakable traces of her own Cuban-Spanish accent — a flaw that’s earned some criticism but, if anything, strengthens the movie’s notion of Monroe as a construct, a gorgeous mask that keeps slipping. The superficial imperfections of De Armas’ performance aren’t the problem with “Blonde.” It needs every ounce of her, and her humanity, that it can muster.

A black-and-white image of a blond woman posing in a billowing, white dress.

Even the levitational pleasure of that “Some Like It Hot” scene can’t last. Before long, this Marilyn isn’t singing; she’s screaming and flailing and bringing the production to a halt. Dominik doesn’t do much by halves, diva crackups included, and it’s dispiriting to realize that this is why he bothered with this particular Hollywood re-creation. Monroe, then just four years away from her death of a barbiturate overdose at age 36, was already deep in the throes of addiction; stories of her difficulty remembering her lines (and her less-than-collegial treatment by Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder) are legion. It couldn’t matter less to Dominik that she wound up giving one of her greatest, funniest performances anyway. What matters is the chance to unleash Monroe’s many demons — a miserable childhood, a rapacious industry, a cavalcade of bad, brutalizing men — and bring them rushing to the surface, not for the first or final time.

In “Blonde,” Monroe’s pain is never final. The insults, the abandonments, the beatings, the rapes, the addictions, the losses of consciousness and selfhood — these aren’t just cruel twists or setbacks; they’re the movie’s organizing principles. With a meticulous command of craft and the kind of high seriousness that only a nearly three-hour running time can signify, Dominik sets out to chronicle the many degradations that were inflicted on Monroe’s body and spirit, plus a few that probably weren’t. (His blueprint is Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel of the same title.) Like his great 2007 western, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “Blonde” has been conceived as a slow-motion death march: “The Assassination of Marilyn Monroe by Basically Everyone She Ever Met.” And in every aesthetic detail, from the brooding undertow of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score to the artfully arbitrary mix of color and black-and-white in Chayse Irvin’s boxily framed images, “Blonde” styles itself as a work of rare, unflinching honesty — a nightmarish plunge into the Hollywood abattoir that ground up and finally devoured its most sublime creation.

A smiling woman stands between two men in the movie "Blonde."

Any truthful portrait of Norma Jeane Baker, the woman who became Marilyn Monroe, would of course have to reckon with the tightly coiled double helix of her art and her tragedy. But “Blonde” is all tragedy, and its single-mindedness isn’t just dull and punishing but also wearyingly unimaginative. That’s not something I would say about Oates’ novel, a sprawling demolition of the Monroe mythos that, by freely revising and departing from the biographical record, arrives at its own tough truths about its subject. Framed as a sordid 20th century fairy tale, it achieves a far richer, more expansive kind of portraiture than this blunt instrument of a movie ultimately manages.

Something seems off from the hasty opening scenes of Norma Jeane (an affecting Lily Fisher) growing up in early 1930s Los Angeles with her volatile mother, Gladys (Julianne Nicholson, fierce), who’s soon diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized. Developments that consumed chapters of the book — Norma Jeane’s time in an orphanage and foster care, her short-lived first marriage at age 16 — are omitted entirely, which isn’t a deal breaker; even at two hours and 45 minutes, “Blonde” can’t be expected to accommodate the density of a 700-plus-page narrative. But it’s what Dominik chooses to do — and not do — with those two hours and 45 minutes that suggests a bigger problem than basic compression issues.

The movie skips ahead to Norma Jeane’s early modeling days (enter De Armas in a breezy pinup montage), which in turn open the door to an acting career. Unfortunately, that door leads into the office of a studio mogul who lifts her skirt, sexually assaults her and then sends her briskly on her way — a scene that’s set, with startlingly jejune crudeness, to “Ev’ry Baby Needs a Da-Da-Daddy.” That song choice is one of many numbing references to the gaping father wound she’s borne since childhood, ever since her mother implied that Norma Jeane’s never-seen father was himself a famous Hollywood actor. Even as she rises to new heights of fame if not necessarily fortune (like a lot of studio contract players, Monroe was grossly underpaid), she keeps scanning the crowds for the man she believes has been watching and protecting her from afar.

A man and a woman sit in front of a window  in the movie "Blonde."

This lays the emotional groundwork for just about every bad romance that lies ahead. She falls into a tabloid-titillating threesome with two hunky Hollywood scions, Charlie “Cass” Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edward “Eddy” G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams), both nursing daddy issues of a different kind. This subplot, one of the novel’s weirder fabrications, coincides with Norma Jeane’s full public emergence as Marilyn, which soon draws her toward older, higher-profile suitors. “Daddy” turns out to be Norma Jeane’s preferred term of endearment for husbands Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale), who smacks her around and resents her fame, and Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), who treats her with more tenderness, if also the same lofty condescension she gets from everyone else.

Norma Jeane’s mommy issues are an equivalent source of torment; she’s desperate to have a child and become the kind of stable, supportive mother she herself never had. To that end, I guess, Dominik visualizes her failed pregnancies — one ends in an abortion, another in a miscarriage — as tragedies of a cosmic order. In goes the surreally invasive utero-cam; out come the kitschy images of a fetus glowing inside Norma Jeane’s womb. (The Star Child in “2001” didn’t exude this much celestial wonderment.) But if “Blonde” boasts some of the most gynecological mise-en-scène this side of Gaspar Noé’s “Enter the Void,” that’s nothing compared with the nadir of a scene in which an older, wearier Norma Jeane is dumped like a sack of meat in President Kennedy’s hotel suite. The violation that follows, which likely accounts for the movie’s NC-17 rating, has an in-your-face ugliness that wants to be seen as courageously unadorned, but all the scene really does is wallow, to no moral or intelligent purpose, in the spectacle of Monroe’s debasement.

Salacious rumors have been swirling around “Blonde” since well before its recent Venice International Film Festival premiere, but pre-release controversy was always to be expected of a movie about a Hollywood star who’s lost none of her tragic mystique 60 years after her death. The outrage that greeted Kim Kardashian when she wore Monroe’s historic “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” gown to this year’s Met Gala was a reminder of the feverish protectiveness the actor can still inspire. It was also a reminder of how often that protectiveness expresses itself through the trappings and accouterments of an endlessly reproducible image — an image that, according to “Blonde,” so consumed and obscured the real Norma Jeane that it ultimately obliterated her.

A man in glasses looks at a blond woman wearing a blue dress and holding flowers in the movie "Blonde."

“That thing up on the screen, it isn’t me,” she murmurs when she sees herself perform “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and you understand her alienation from the defining 20th century sex symbol she’s fast becoming. But in “Blonde’s” clumsy hands, even that legitimate insight feels too easy. Her star persona may have been a glittering Hollywood construct, but to suggest that Marilyn Monroe had no hand in the creation of Marilyn Monroe is to deny her a very specific form of agency, and I don’t mean William Morris. Because Dominik can’t conceive of Monroe as anything but a victim, he can’t even grant her the respect of seeing her as, at the very least, a participant in her success and her undoing. A smarter, tougher movie would have explored that participation and recognized it as its own kind of power — a power as undeniable as the allure of the movies themselves.

“Blonde” seems blind to that allure, even scornful of it. There’s no sense of Monroe the brilliant screen comedian, the joyous cinematic life force. Instead, Dominik operates by a simplistic dramatic equation that ties her greatest professional highs to her worst personal lows: How could Marilyn — or anyone, really — take any joy in the applause for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” when all she can think about is her guilt over her studio-ordered abortion? Why should her famous interaction with a subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch” be anything but a windy metaphor for all the lecherous hounds of Hollywood, driven home — in case we missed the point — by all those men leering at her from the crowd, flashbulbs popping like gunfire?

“In the movies, they chop you all to bits: cut, cut, cut,” Norma Jeane says. She’s contrasting film acting, where performances are often pieced together in the editing room, with the stage acting that she aspires to do; she’s also expressing a level of aesthetic and intellectual curiosity that earns her the usual sneering dismissals. But “Blonde” subjects Monroe to its own grisly vivisection. It lays the most betrayed, abused and vulnerable parts of her out across the screen and chucks the rest away: her talent, her magnetism, her smarts, her guts. “Blonde” can be remarkably cruel, but really, it’s not all that remarkable. It won’t be the first movie, or the last, that Marilyn Monroe outlives.

Rating: NC-17, for some sexual content Running time: 2 hours, 46 minutes Playing: In limited release; starts streaming Sept. 28 on Netflix

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Justin Chang was a film critic for the Los Angeles Times from 2016 to 2024. He is the author of the book “FilmCraft: Editing” and serves as chair of the National Society of Film Critics and secretary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.

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Blonde movie reviews: What are the critics saying about Netflix’s Blonde?

By diana nosa | sep 29, 2022.

Blonde. Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe. Cr. Netflix © 2022

After months of anticipation, Netflix has finally released  Blonde , the stunning biopic about the life of the late Marilyn Monroe.

From Kim Kardashian wearing Monroe’s infamous John F. Kennedy birthday dress to this year marking the 60th anniversary of the icon’s heartbreaking death, some believe the 2022 film could not have come at a better time, as it is very important to know all about the legacy of Marilyn Monroe.

However, there are those who believe that the film shouldn’t have been created at all, especially because there are many other ways to honor Monroe’s life other than making a biopic. Nevertheless, the Netflix film is here, and so are the many reviews and ratings of the 2022 film.

Did  Blonde  do Marilyn Monroe justice, or is this film yet another exploitative title that should be tossed into the sea of forgetfulness? Here’s the verdict.

How critics feel about Blonde

As we stated before, there are some who are all for this new biopic and there are those who couldn’t be anymore against it. This could explain why, as of today,  Blonde  is receiving mixed reviews and ratings.

Rohan Naahar of The Indian Express praises director Andrew Dominik’s choice to depict the most traumatizing aspects of Monroe’s life in a way that highlights her humanity as opposed to giving her abusers the spotlight.

"“But this isn’t an exploitative movie,” Naahar states. “The perspective never shifts from Marilyn; the film never leaves her side. In moments that could be perceived as dehumanising, Dominik’s camera trains its focus on Marilyn’s face. He isn’t going to dignify the abuse by showing it on screen; he’s concerned only about what Marilyn is feeling, as he implores viewers to lock eyes with her and stay until the end.”"

Austin Chronicle ‘s Jenny Nulf also felt that  Blonde  did a stellar job at removing the rose-colored glasses we often have when remembering Monroe’s fame, stating:

"“Marilyn Monroe was every American’s fantasy – a desirable beauty with a sublime balance of sex appeal and approachability, a ‘cool girl’ of her time. Blonde seeks to destroy that perfect pinup and topple the pristine myth of Monroe’s celebrity.”"

Blonde. Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe. Cr. Netflix © 2022

Though the film was able to do Marilyn Monroe’s trials and tribulations justice without glamorizing her trauma, in many ways, some feel that this feat simply wasn’t enough to overshadow the otherwise “hollow” film.

Screenrant ‘s Mae Abdulbaki gave the film two out of five stars because it failed to show anything other than Marilyn Monroe’s pain and struggles. Like many, Abdulbaki believes that Monroe’s trauma wasn’t why she is noted as a Hollywood legend.

"“And while Blonde is uplifted by a passionate performance by Ana de Armas, it isn’t interested in the life of Norma Jeane Mortensen so much as it is in the pain and suffering she faced,” Abdulbaki expresses. “If anything, Blonde is a tedious, hollow, one-note take on a woman who was so much more than her trauma.”"

Blonde

In considering both sides, it’s easy to understand why some are withholding from streaming  Blonde . But here’s the bottom line.

Should I stream or skip Blonde?

In our humble opinion, if you’re watching  Blonde  because you wish to be entertained with a new Netflix release , then we believe you should 100% stream the film. Ana de Armas’s performance is extremely captivating and moving. So much so that you may be entranced by the actress at several points in the movie.

The acting and aesthetics of  Blonde  are more than enough to appease your wish to be thoroughly enthralled by the 2022 title. However, we believe being entertained is the only feeling you may receive.

If you are opting to watch  Blonde  because you desire to know more about Marilyn Monroe, mainly about many her awe-inspiring impact on feminism and body positivity, then this is not the film for you.

As the aforementioned reviewers touched on,  Blonde  puts an immense amount of focus on the low points of Monroe’s life. And while Dominik’s choice does serve to remind us that the superstar was a human underneath all the diamonds, it takes away from the important revelation that Marilyn Monroe was a survivor that went on to do many, many great things in spite of her dark past.

Monroe loved giving to those in need. She loved speaking out against injustice ; she loved fighting for other remarkable women, such as Ella Fitzgerald, to have a seat at the Hollywood table. She loved being a conqueror, and, unfortunately,  Blonde  didn’t capture too many of her greatest achievements.

Blonde

Next. Netflix Blonde cast guide: Who stars in the Marilyn Monroe movie?. dark

Perhaps you’ll have a different opinion on the matter. The only way to find out is to stream  Blonde today on Netflix .

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Film mixes fact, fiction; abuse, nudity, sex, language.

Blonde Movie Poster

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Marilyn is portrayed as generally lost and exploit

A mother emotionally and physically abuses and att

Full-frontal female nudity in one brief scene, and

"F--k," "s--t," "damn," "hell," "ass," "whore," "c

LA sites; Monroe films; the book this film is base

Adults drink and smoke. Marilyn takes and is given

Parents need to know that the film Blonde , based on Joyce Carol Oates' fictional novel about Marilyn Monroe, earned an unusual NC-17 rating in the US because of its sexual content. The content includes a sexual encounter and relationship between Marilyn (played by Ana de Armas) and two men and a graphic oral…

Positive Role Models

Marilyn is portrayed as generally lost and exploited or abused by almost everyone she comes in contact with, except her husband Arthur Miller and her trusted make-up artist Whitey, who both treat her with care. She's shown to be more intelligent than people gave her credit for and an exceptionally charismatic and talented actor. She is depicted as scarred from childhood trauma, hard on herself, possibly suffering from inherited mental health issues, and eventually succumbing to painkillers.

Violence & Scariness

A mother emotionally and physically abuses and attempts to kill her own child; she also appears suicidal and is institutionalized in a bleak mental hospital. Men force Marilyn into sexual acts and beat her up. Marilyn undergoes emotionally taxing abortions and miscarriages. A man mentions allegations against the then-president of sexual molestation.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Full-frontal female nudity in one brief scene, and a lot of Marilyn topless. Sexual scenes include a threesome between Marilyn and two men, and a graphic oral sex scene (penis isn't shown). Men constantly comment on and admire Marilyn's body.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

"F--k," "s--t," "damn," "hell," "ass," "whore," "c--k," "c--ksuckers," "slut," "crap," "tramp," "pee," "God," "Jesus."

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

LA sites; Monroe films; the book this film is based on; and media outlets, studios, and publications of the time.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink and smoke. Marilyn takes and is given painkillers, sometimes with alcohol, which causes her to vomit, hallucinate, pass out, and ultimately die. A man appears drunk and violent. Another man is said to have died by choking on his own vomit due to alcoholism.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the film Blonde , based on Joyce Carol Oates' fictional novel about Marilyn Monroe, earned an unusual NC-17 rating in the US because of its sexual content. The content includes a sexual encounter and relationship between Marilyn (played by Ana de Armas ) and two men and a graphic oral sex scene where intimate body parts aren't shown but the camera dwells on Marilyn's face during the entire act. Full-frontal female nudity of another character is shown briefly, and there are a lot of scenes with Marilyn topless. There's also sexual violence, including a man in a position of power forcing himself on a young Marilyn. Her mother and one of her husbands are also portrayed as abusive, and Marilyn undergoes abortions and miscarriages. She's portrayed as immensely talented but also traumatized and unstable, and she ultimately becomes addicted to painkillers. She's seen taking these with alcohol and vomiting or losing consciousness and her sense of reality, and ultimately dying. Other adults drink and smoke as well, and one character is said to have died choking on his own vomit. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "damn," "hell," "ass," "whore," "c--k," "c--ksuckers," "slut," "Jesus," and more. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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Community Reviews

  • Parents say (10)
  • Kids say (7)

Based on 10 parent reviews

the worst movie in the world

Not appropriate for kids., what's the story.

As a young girl, when BLONDE begins, Norma Jean (Lily Fisher) suffers abuse from her unstable mother ( Julianne Nicholson ) and, absent a father in her life, is sent to live in an orphanage. When she grows up, Norma Jean transforms into Marilyn Monroe ( Ana de Armas ), first as a pin-up model and eventually as a movie star and celebrity icon known to millions. But for Norma Jean, Marilyn is a construction, a character she turns on when the cameras light up. The dichotomy of her two personas, and the ways Marilyn is exploited and abused by almost everyone around her, ultimately wear Norma Jean down. She's unsuccessful in her constant search for a father figure and someone to respect and love her for who she is when the cameras are turned off. Norma Jean can't escape Marilyn, so Marilyn must escape.

Is It Any Good?

Director Andrew Dominik has crafted an ambitious and daring but overly long fictionalized biopic centered around a remarkable lead performance from Ana de Armas. Dominik clearly intended for Blonde to overwhelm and even feel cruel at times, ostensibly to mirror the life experiences of the fictionalized Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jean. De Armas is excellent in the role, embodying Marilyn to a tee. If anyone complains about her (very slight) Cuban accent, just remind them of the countless times American actors have played other nationalities. But this Monroe is essentially one-note: she's anxious, vulnerable, emotionally tortured, always unsatisfied, abused, and misunderstood. She moves from man to man (calling them all "daddy") and seems on the constant verge of a nervous breakdown.

Many scenes in Blonde are both fantastical and intentionally provocative. The film is narratively and visually inventive, including a sex scene where bodies appear to be floating, stretching, and melting, or camera angles meant to be looking out from inside a vagina or a toilet. Camera angles, focus, color, and sound all conjure Marilyn's mindset and mood. Some of these techniques are quite effective and memorable, others just feel showy and more about form than content. Ultimately, for the viewer, less would have been more. At almost three hours long, the exercise is exhausting. Perhaps we are meant to feel as disoriented and drained as this fictionalized Marilyn, who asks where dreams end and madness begins?

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about the ethical issues involved in fictionalizing the lives of real people, as in Blonde . Where can you go to find out which parts of this movie are based on fact and which parts are made up? How do you think the relatives of the real people portrayed here might react?

What do you think of the choice of Ana de Armas to play Marilyn Monroe? Did she look, sound, and behave like Monroe? How do you think an actor prepares to play a real or famous person?

What other films have you watched that were longer than two or two and a half hours? What are the pros and cons of cutting films down to a more typical two hours?

This film received an unusual NC-17 rating. Do you think that was justified? Why or why not?

Movie Details

  • On DVD or streaming : September 28, 2022
  • Cast : Ana de Armas , Bobby Cannavale , Adrien Brody
  • Director : Andrew Dominik
  • Inclusion Information : Latino actors, Female writers
  • Studio : Netflix
  • Genre : Drama
  • Topics : Magic and Fantasy , Book Characters
  • Run time : 187 minutes
  • MPAA rating : NC-17
  • MPAA explanation : some sexual content
  • Last updated : March 15, 2023

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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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Blonde review: A bleakly arty biopic misses the mark — and the spark

Ana de Armas does her best Norma Jeane in a jumbled, misogynistic melodrama that fails to meet her halfway.

Leah Greenblatt is the critic at large at Entertainment Weekly , covering movies, music, books, and theater. She is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, and has been writing for EW since 2004.

movie review blonde

In the business of biopics, what becomes a legend most? Earlier this year, Baz Luhrman's Elvis offered a portrait of the artist as a fever-dream highlight reel, all Technicolor dazzle and lascivious crotch zooms. Several months later, writer-director Andrew Dominik ( The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ) arrives with his own auteur vision of Marilyn Monroe: an airless, disjointed, occasionally gorgeous arthouse collage that somehow manages to spend nearly three hours reducing a cultural icon to less than the sum of her parts.

Which is not to say that all parts of star Ana de Armas aren't put on display, relentlessly; she spends long stretches of the movie nude, and several scenes go where only OB-GYNs have gone before. The already-notorious NC-17 rating that precedes the film (in theaters now and on Netflix Sept. 28) actually turns out to be a strange misdirection: As pornography, Blonde is tame, even boring. As exploitation it's far more explicit, portraying the actress as a disturbed woman-child with no agency, no joy, and no real allies in the world, a doomed butterfly bent again and again on the wheel of fame and our own insatiable voyeurism.

Not, in Dominik's telling, that she ever stood a chance. Her mother ( Mare of Easttown 's Julianne Nicholson ) is a character straight out of Tennessee Williams, a raging mentally-ill alcoholic with delusions of grandeur, screaming abuse at the daughter she never asked for and occasionally attempting to drown her in the bathtub. What she leaves little Norma Jeane with by the time she's carted away is primarily PTSD, and an enduring obsession with the elusive father she never met. (He's someone very important in show business is all she knows, or at least has repeatedly been told.) Norma Jeane's subsequent time in orphanages and foster care is mostly implied, glossed over in favor of smash-cutting straight to Marilyn the starlet: dimpled, gleaming, platinum to the root.

To be fair, the film's structure is the work of Joyce Carol Oates, whose impressionistic 2000 novel Dominik pulls his source material from. Her version clocked in at nearly 750 pages; his, heroically, moves through the entirety of Monroe's life in just under 170 minutes. Many of the iconic screen moments and love interests are here, faithfully replicated in some form: the brief, contentious marriage to Joe DiMaggio ( Bobby Cannavale ) and longer but no less ill-fated pivot to Arthur Miller ( Adrien Brody ); epochal re-creations from The Seven Year Itch , Some Like It Hot , and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes . John F. Kennedy, represented here as a casually cruel bully who handles her like cargo, duly makes an appearance — in a single scene just long enough for Marilyn to give him a coerced blow job in extreme closeup, while her eyes fill with tears and she castigates herself in an inner monologue not to choke or throw up on the Presidential baton.

That's the stuff Blonde is pretty much made of: small, faraway glimpses of glamour and glory, subsumed by misery. Monroe speaks earnestly of hopes and dreams, just a girl who wants to better herself through Chekhov and make beautiful babies. But mostly she staggers around calling men who aren't her daddy "Daddy" and staining movie sets and red-carpet premieres with her tears. There's no role she actually wants to play once she lands it, and no aspect of being a star that she enjoys; from the very beginning it's less a career than a cross to bear. More ad-hoc tragedies are piled on by the script when true history does not suffice, or whenever she dares to veer too close to happiness.

What the story lacks in personal fulfillment, Dominik colors in with own cinematic imagination, turning an orgasm into a waterfall that becomes the 1953 noir Niagara and conjuring a glowing in-utero fetus straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey . The film stock toggles between creamy, high-contrast black and white and saturated color; frames shimmer and melt like psychedelic taffy. As busy as it is with the outlines of biography, though, the screenplay rarely bothers with cohesion or momentum. It's just a series of evocative, increasingly distressing set pieces, a slow-motion car wreck wending toward its inevitable end.

De Armas, breathy and luminous, gamely submits to it all, and the resemblance once she's bewigged and be-moled is startling, particularly when Dominik replicates certain films and photo shoots exactly. (Her native Cuban accent, painstakingly minimized, hardly disrupts the level of non-reality already happening on screen, but it is distracting.) The main thing the movie misses in portraying Marilyn solely as a tragic sex bomb isn't just the pleasure that Monroe herself brought to millions, but de Armas's inner light too. The spark and vitality so evident in previous projects like Knives Out and No Time to Die has been smothered down to one note: walking wound. What's left is mostly empty iconography and a few indelible images, a bombastic curiosity wrapped in the guise of high art. Some like it cold. Grade: D+

Related content:

  • Ana de Armas questions Blonde NC-17 rating: 'I didn't understand why that happened'
  • Marilyn Monroe's estate defends casting of Ana de Armas in Blonde amid accent criticism
  • Ana de Armas says her job 'wasn't to imitate' Marilyn Monroe while making Blonde

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‘Blonde’ Movie Review (Venice Film Festival 2022): Ana de Armas Turns In A Bravura Performance as Marilyn Monroe In This Dark Biopic Destined For Divisiveness

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Starting with 2016’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson , depictions of misunderstood cultural figures who faced unfair treatment at the hands of a cruel public have washed over film and television. Andrew Dominik’s Blonde , an expressionistic interpretation of Marilyn Monroe’s life and legacy, might seem to fit this model at first glance. But unlike the Ryan Murphy-fied version of culture, this movie is not out to flatter its audience for simply coming to the realization that culture did her dirty. And he makes it searingly clear that such a belated appreciation is cold comfort to her corpse.

Blonde is not content to simply provide a portrait of the iconic blonde bombshell through the committed performance of Ana de Armas. Plenty of documentaries about the scintillating subject exist should anyone just want the Wikipedia page read to them. This is a phantasmagoric look at the Hollywood machine to rival the abject psychological terror of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive . It’s a film more comfortable with making suggestions than statements, conveying the sickness of stardom through an inescapable visual and narrative malaise.

These dark adult themes are far more harrowing than the adult acts that earned Blonde a rare NC-17 rating for “some sexual content.” The MPAA’s rating smacks of courted controversy, akin to Harvey Weinstein’s repeated battles with the rating’s board for free publicity. The film’s depiction of sexuality is not meant to titillate, even when Marilyn gets to wield it herself. It’s primarily a blunt instrument of physical force used to keep her in line as she enters and emerges into the industry.

Dominik filters the entire film through the lens of how this sordid pipeline turns people into placeholders for desire. The male-dominated business transforms Los Angeles into a paternal wasteland as men only show interest in philandering, not fathering. Contemplating how little has changed from Marilyn’s time to the ruthless rule of Weinstein – and countless predators who remain ensconced in power – is just as scary as anything unfolding on screen.

This exploitative, extractive environment chews up the real Norma Jeane Mortensen, an impoverished ward of the state of California, and spits her out as the surreal screen creation Marilyn Monroe. She enters a career in acting as a trained thespian, studying Method technique with Lee Strasberg, only to find no one cares about the brain underneath her blonde hair. Alluding to Dostoyevsky earns her a repudiation during an audition. Even playwright Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), who would later become Marilyn’s husband, reacts with incredulity when she cites Chekhov in their first conversation. She was born to be an actress but cursed to become a star.

In the heyday of classical Hollywood, there was simply no way to reconcile her smarts and sexuality – so most in power chose to ignore the former and double down on the latter as they minted her image. It’s in this wide chasm between person and persona that Ana de Armas’ characterization of Marilyn Monroe resides. She is terrifyingly trapped in a perpetual present tense with so much for her to run from and so little to run toward. She has no interest in returning to the traumatic past of abuse by her single mother Gladys (Julianne Nicholson), and all her attempts to create a future by bearing a child end up thwarted.

As the blinding lights of the industry bear down on her with increasing ferocity, Marilyn’s inner darkness takes over and squelches whatever lingering vestiges of Norma Jeane still exist. de Armas plays the actress less as an unimpeachable historical figure and more like a scream queen losing her mind before the audience’s eyes. Her devastatingly dedicated performance is refreshingly free of hoary biopic clichés and easy imitation. Pre-release complaints about de Armas’ accent as indicative of a larger inability to capture the actress’ essence in Blonde prove wildly overblown as she nimbly conveys the sparkle, smarts, and sadness of Marilyn Monroe. When the film splices de Armas into footage from films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot , it takes a while to register that the figure on-screen is not actually Marilyn herself.

But mere mimicry is not the point of Blonde . de Armas’ bravura performance works so well because every choice is calibrated in service of the project’s larger aim, which is not so much portraiture as it is a parable. She’s not just meant for admiration like some type of wax figure, and this less conventional style may alienate those seeking more a traditional portrayal. Dominik happily takes this risk. He shows not just Marilyn herself but also what other people project onto her.

The film uses her infamous, egregious example to illuminate the institutions of abuse that enabled a descent into depression. With maximalist fervor, the film deconstructs desire itself to show the damage done to Marilyn Monroe. When the camera provides a POV shot from inside her womb, the perverse provocation feels like an appropriate escalation. Dominik is not afraid to taunt his audience with the logical extension of their invasive gaze and make them feel dirty for it.

The aesthetic stylization Dominik brings to bear is practically assaultive in its aggressiveness. Blonde shifts between aspect ratios and colors on a scene-to-scene basis, reflecting the cinematic grammar of the film playing in the characters’ heads. It also drives home just how many formats in which Marilyn was consumed before the culture consumed her. Trying to keep up with the exhausting internal logic is somewhat futile – just submit to Dominik’s pummeling vision. Blonde ’s visual schema may be inconsistent, but it is not ineffective.

Dominik also punctuates the film’s 166-minute runtime with conspicuous visual flourishes meant to further explode stodgy conventions and increase Blonde ’s pervasive sense of unreality. These brash bursts of cinematic energy are spotty in their effectiveness, especially those that just feel loud for their own sake. But overall, they serve a larger purpose of aligning the audience with Marilyn’s own loss of bearing in reality. The ones that work best find idiosyncratic expression for unseen elements of Marilyn’s interior life, such as animating how she activated the Method technique of sense memory in her on-screen acting … or literalizing the horror of her final days as she becomes unmoored from time and space alike.

But no amount of directorial trickery can outdo the simple devastation of what must be Marilyn’s most repeated word in the film: “daddy.” After growing up without such a male presence in her childhood, she looks for paternal validation in both her professional and personal life. Yet she’s doomed to search for an authoritative figure in a land of lusty boys, a cosmic tragedy Dominik quite literally writes in the stars. Blonde may well be the definitive feel-bad biopic, one designed not to inspire pity but to dole out punishment. It’s destined for divisiveness but deserves full consideration for its intellectual merits, not just its emotionally enticing looks – just like Marilyn Monroe herself did.

Blonde made its world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, and will be available to stream exclusively on Netflix starting on September 28, 2022.

Marshall Shaffer is a New York-based freelance film journalist. In addition to Decider, his work has also appeared on Slashfilm, Slant, Little White Lies and many other outlets. Some day soon, everyone will realize how right he is about  Spring Breakers.

  • Blonde (2022)

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‘Blonde’ Tells a Story of Marilyn Monroe That’s All Pain, No Pleasure

By K. Austin Collins

K. Austin Collins

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Blonde is an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ epic novel of the same name , published in 2000. It isn’t the first. Joyce Chopra, director of the seminal Laura Dern movie Smooth Talk, which was also based on Oates’ writing, took a crack at adapting Blonde back in 2001, in a made-for-TV movie that starred Poppy Montgomery as Marilyn, and beside her, a cast ranging from Griffin Dunne, Eric Bogosian, and Wallace Shawn to Patrick Dempsey and Kirstie Alley. This version whittles Oates’ frightfully earnest novel down into a story of much plainer style than what Dominik is attempting in his new version. Eerily, both movies — one reconfiguring the novel into an old-fashioned soap opera (not a pejorative), the other grasping for the avant garde — have alighted on many of the same, sensationalistic beats from Oates’ novel, down to even some of the same, memorable lines, as when Marilyn, smitten with Arthur Miller, says that he needn’t call her Marilyn, or even Norma — he doesn’t even need to call her by name: “You can call me ‘Hey you!’” These movies don’t look or feel the same; one takes its melodrama for granted, and the other strains to push its melodramatic hysteria to more intellectual heights. It’s strange that they should both barrel toward the same foregone conclusions, but not unexpected. We cannot help but tell the same stories about Marilyn Monroe. Admittedly, a filmmaker looking to break free of that cycle would probably find it wise to avoid Oates’ novel altogether, not because the novel itself is so purely reductive (though the minority opinion, upon its release, did take it to task for its masochistic, near-pornographic emotional hysteria), but because Oates’ rendition is practically booby trapped, prone to being misused in precisely this manner. This is a novelist who’s written first-person fictionalizations of Chappaquiddick, the murder of JonBenét Ramsey, and Jeffrey Dahmer; fear of sensationalism is not exactly her affliction. She largely gets away with it, however, because her domain is the old-fashioned gothic. The scandalous, the sensational, are her tools — useful ones at that, because they are inherently double-edged. Oates can use our helpless fascination with dead spectacles against us, inspiring true repulsion, much like a trickster genie who’d warned us to be careful what we wish for. Her novels are often in danger of spinning from their axes for exactly this reason — the emotions she labors to narrate, in her jittery, observant prose, are reckless. 

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Legally Blonde Spinoff Series Release Date Rumors: When Is It Coming Out?

S tarring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde was one of the defining films of the early 2000s. It received positive reviews from the critics and was a box-office success. A sequel, titled Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, debuted in 2003, and even though it was panned by the critics, it was commercially successful. The franchise also includes a failed pilot, a Broadway musical, and a direct-to-video film. In 2024, it was announced that a Legally Blonde Spinoff Series was in development at Amazon. This is what we know about the project.

Here’s all the Legally Blonde Spinoff Series release date information we know so far, and all the details on when it is coming out.

Is there a Legally Blonde Spinoff Series release date?

The Legally Blonde Spinoff release date could arrive by 2025 at the earliest.

In April 2024, Deadline reported that Amazon Prime Video was developing a Legally Blonde Spinoff Series, with Witherspoon attached to the project as an executive producer through her Hello Sunshine banner. Josh Schwartz and Stephanie of Gossip Girl fame are writing the series.

Previously, there were reports, including by ComingSoon , on a third Legally Blonde film. It is not entirely clear if that project has been transformed into this spin-off. Deadline reports that Amazon intends to develop more Legally Blonde projects. This includes a second spin-off show, though that one is still in a “preliminary” stage. If the Legally Blonde Spinoff Series goes into production this year, it can potentially come out in 2025 at the earliest.

This date is an estimation based on the information we have at the time of this writing.

No information is available on the plot and cast of the spin-off as of April 2024.

Where is Legally Blonde Spin-off Series coming out?

Legally Blonde Spinoff Series is anticipated to come out on Amazon Prime Video in 2025 at the earliest.

This is because, as mentioned above, the project is in development at Amazon MGM Studios. ComingSoon will provide an update when Amazon officially announces the exact release date of the Legally Blonde Spin-off Series.

The official synopsis of Legally Blonde (2001) is as follows:

“Elle Woods, a fashionable sorority queen, is dumped by her boyfriend. She decides to follow him to law school, but while there, she figures out that there is more to herself than just looks.”

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The post Legally Blonde Spinoff Series Release Date Rumors: When Is It Coming Out? appeared first on ComingSoon.net - Movie Trailers, TV & Streaming News, and More .

Legally Blonde Spinoff Series Release Date Rumors: When Is It Coming Out?

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‘Legally Blonde’ TV Series in Development at Amazon With Reese Witherspoon, ‘Gossip Girl’ Duo Producing

By Joe Otterson

Joe Otterson

TV Reporter

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A TV series set in the world of “ Legally Blonde ” is in development at Amazon Prime Video, Variety has confirmed.

No plot details are available, but the project is being executive produced by Reese Witherspoon along with Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, with Schwartz and Savage also writing. Witherspoon starred in two of the “Legally Blonde” films and will executive produce under her Hello Sunshine banner alongside Lauren Neustadter. Hello Sunshine is part of Candle Media. Schwartz and Savage executive produce via Fake Empire. Marc Platt, a producer on the films, will also executive produce. Amazon MGM Studios will produce.

The first “Legally Blonde” was released in theaters in 2001. Witherspoon starred as Elle Woods, a fashion-focused sorority girl who decides to attend Harvard Law School in an attempt to win back her boyfriend. In the process, she discovers a natural aptitude for the law.

The film was a box office success, grossing over $140 million worldwide. The sequel “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde” was released in 2003. A direct-to-video third film came out in 2009, though Witherspoon did not star but did serve as a producer. A stage musical based on the first film debuted on Broadway in 2007, receiving multiple Tony and Drama Desk nominations.

Schwartz and Savage are best known for developing the hit high school drama “Gossip Girl,” which aired on The CW for six seasons. Schwartz also created the Fox drama series “The OC,” on which Savage was an executive producer. The duo also executive produced the recent “Gossip Girl” reboot at Max and co-created shows like “City on Fire” for Apple TV+ and “Nancy Drew” for The CW.

They are repped by WME. Witherspoon and Hello Sunshine are repped by CAA and LBI Entertainment.

Deadline first reported the development news.

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Sugar review – Colin Farrell’s private detective drama is a disaster

The lead’s performance nearly carries this neo-noir crime series, but it’s derivative, uninspired and features a mid-series twist so maddening it’s unforgivable

I t is a truth commonly acknowledged that neo-noir has been a tricky proposition ever since LA Confidential showed us its platonic ideal back in 1997. More than a quarter of a century later, the makers of Apple TV+’s new contribution to the genre think they have found a way to mark its place in history. We’ll come back to that, because I’m yet to reconcile my furious reaction to the narrative tactics employed therein.

We begin simply enough (and, appropriately, in black and white). In Tokyo, hard-boiled private investigator John Sugar ( Colin Farrell ) is in the process of rescuing – by means of street smarts, and a reluctant but effective amount of violence, incurring minimal damage to his suit – the kidnapped offspring of a Yakuza boss. Upon receipt of the traditional brown envelope, he returns to the US and his boss, Ruby (Kirby, formerly known as Kirby Howell-Baptiste), informing her that he has illicitly picked up another job on the way. Sugar has been contacted by movie producer Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell – who, in a series that makes intertextuality an art form, was also in LA Confidential) to find his missing granddaughter, Olivia (Sydney Chandler – no relation to Raymond, but in keeping with the mood of the thing). Her father, Bernie (Dennis Boutsikaris), and half-brother, David (Nathan Corddry), think she has gone on a bender after two years of sobriety. Would that things were so simple.

LA Confidential, this is not … Colin Farrell and James Cromwell in Apple TV+’s Sugar.

Fortunately, our gumshoe hero believes in a grandfather’s instincts (as a movie buff, he is is delighted to take the case anyway; while Olivia reminds him of “Jen”, whose identity we will learn later). Despite Ruby’s wish for him to take a holiday, Sugar is soon embroiled in an ever-murkier world involving disappearing bodies in car boots, nude photographs of Olivia’s mother hidden in her apartment, exchanges over whisky in bars and beautiful residences, and more echoes of The Big Sleep than you can shake a tumbler of ice at. The introduction of crimes such as people trafficking, and the adult proclivities of former child star David (non-disclosure agreements strewn like confetti over the women unlucky enough to work with him), bring things up to date.

Sugar forms a bond with Olivia’s stepmother, former rock star and recovering alcoholic Melanie (Amy Ryan), but she’s not telling him everything she knows, fascinated though she is by his kindness to homeless people, a gentlemanly refusal to sleep with her while she’s inebriated, and the fact that he himself cannot get drunk. His body processes alcohol 50 times faster than normal, he tells her. Is this a writerly attempt to add interest to a so-far derivative and underdeveloped character? Or something more? Perhaps to do with the double vision, muscle spasms, catatonia and mystery injections he self-administers in his hotel room?

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James Cromwell as Jonathan Siegel in Sugar.

Voiceovers à la Philip Marlowe abound, as Sugar chases leads around town in his vintage Corvette. Chandler-esque, however, they are not. “All this violence … I’ve been doing this so long now I’ve almost come to expect it,” runs a typical thought. It’s no “A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window”, and the rest of the script is barely more than serviceable. The performances – especially from Farrell, Ryan and later Eric Lange as the effortlessly terrifying villain, Stallings – carry it. At least until the twist . Which would also make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window, though not for quite the same reasons.

Obviously I can’t tell you what it is. But it comes after the halfway point, which is too deep into the story to work, narratively speaking, and unfair on what I suspect will be the many viewers who object to it. And I haven’t been so snortingly contemptuous of a reveal since Behind Her Eyes , which I still haven’t forgiven anyone for (and probably never will).

But your mileage may vary. If it adds something to the experience for you, then you are more generous than I – who thinks this kind of thing should be stamped on immediately, and stamped on hard. It’s a cheat. It’s an unearned way to grab attention and get a gasp out of an audience, and you can bet that wherever one series is allowed to get away with such a cheap shot, others will follow in droves and we will all be the poorer. Sugar could have been – especially with a little script-polishing – at least an honourable addition to the genre. As it is, it’s nothing at all.

Sugar is on Apple TV+

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The life and music of Amy Winehouse, through the journey of adolescence to adulthood and the creation of one of the best-selling albums of our time. The life and music of Amy Winehouse, through the journey of adolescence to adulthood and the creation of one of the best-selling albums of our time. The life and music of Amy Winehouse, through the journey of adolescence to adulthood and the creation of one of the best-selling albums of our time.

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Reese Witherspoon to revive 'Legally Blonde' in Amazon Prime Video series

movie review blonde

What, like it's hard?

Reese Witherspoon is bringing an old classic back with a new twist: a " Legally Blonde " TV series.

Witherspoon, 48, and her Hello Sunshine company under Candle Media will produce the series alongside Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage's production company Fake Empire and Amazon MGM Studios, a rep for Amazon Prime Video confirmed to USA TODAY Thursday.

" Gossip Girl " creators and writers Schwartz and Savage will be writing the script for the television series.

Plot details are unavailable and it's unclear if Witherspoon will star in the spinoff.

Witherspoon's "Legally Blonde" became a pop culture phenomenon when it hit theaters in 2001. The movie, starring the actress as sorority girl Elle Woods on a mission to win her boyfriend back at Harvard as he plans to devote his time to law school. The character based on Amanda Brown's novel adopted the motto: "If you can't beat them, join them."

The movie went on to gross over $140 million worldwide, per Box Office Mojo .

Witherspoon came back for the sequel "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde" in 2003, but did not participate in the lesser acknowledged "Legally Blondes" in 2009.

Reese Witherspoon talks Apple TV+ drama 'Surface,' how new 'Top Gun' inspired 'Legally Blonde 3'

Since 2018, a "Legally Blonde 3" has been in talks to be written by Mindy Kaling but there has not been any timeline on when to expect the project.

"I'm still hoping that 'Legally Blonde 3' is gonna come together in the right way," Witherspoon told USA TODAY in July 2022. "It's just like 'Top Gun': They waited a long time to make another version of that movie, and I loved the nostalgia piece they incorporated in it. So definitely that gave us a lot of inspiration about what we would want to do with Elle Woods and make sure that we had all those same touchstones that mattered to people (back) then."

She added: "I feel like these characters are my friends, so I safeguard them. I would never make the subpar, mediocre version of their story." 

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‘Legally Blonde’ Spinoff Series In Works At Amazon From Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage

By Nellie Andreeva

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One offshoot, which is further along in the development process, is being written by Gossip Girl developers/executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage . The duo are executive producing the project, whose premise is being kept under wraps, via their Fake Empire banner, alongside Witherspoon and Lauren Neustadter via Hello Sunshine as well the Legally Blonde movie franchise producer Marc Platt. Hello Sunshine, a part of Candle Media; Fake Empire; and Amazon MGM Studios are producing.

I hear Hello Sunshine and Amazon are looking to further expand the Legally Blonde TV universe with a potential second spinoff series, which is still in preliminary, idea stages.

As Deadline reported a year ago , Legally Blonde was among a dozen or so titles from the MGM library that were initially identified for film and/or TV development following Amazon’s acquisition of the venerable Hollywood studio. Teaming up with Witherspoon was a natural step in exploiting the IP.

The first move in the  Legally Blonde  movie franchise, written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith based on the novel by Amanda Brown, debuted in 2001. Starring Witherspoon as Harvard Law student Elle Woods, it became a pop culture phenomenon and propelled Witherspoon to superstardom. Sequel  Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde  followed in 2003 as well as 2009 direct-to-video spinoff  Legally Blondes , which originated as a pilot for a potential series.  Legally Blonde 3,  co-written by Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor, has been in the works for several years.

Savage and Schwartz’s recent series include  Nancy Drew,  which aired for four seasons on The CW, Apple’s  City On Fire,  the  Gossip Girl  reboot on Max and the CW’s  Dynasty. They are repped by WME.

At Amazon MGM Studios, Hello Sunshine recently produced the praised Prime Video limited series Daisy Jones & the Six . Witherspoon and the company are repped by CAA and attorney Gretchen Rush. Witherspoon is also with LBI Entertainment.

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A Legally Blonde TV Series Is Apparently in the Works

By Hayley Maitland

Image may contain Jessica Cauffiel Accessories Bracelet Jewelry Adult Person People Wedding Necklace Belt and Face

I’ll show you how valuable aughts IP can be! A TV series inspired by Legally Blonde is “going to Harvard” (or, at least, Prime Video), which, as a millennial writer, presents a challenge: how many film references can I feasibly fit into a 350-word news story? (A lot.) Reese Witherspoon—who, it must be said, reclaimed the word bimbo 20 years before TikTok—is reportedly collaborating with Amazon to develop “a TV offshoot” of the Legally Blonde franchise, with Gossip Girl and The OC ’s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage on board to write the scripts.

There’s no word yet on whether Reese herself will actually appear in the series, although she’s previously spoken about her desire to give “Woods comma Elle” the And Just Like That… treatment. “I want to discover what age means to that character,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019. “Aging, contemporary ideas, how things have evolved—or not evolved.” (Things have not evolved.) I’m also struggling to conceive of anything Legally Blonde -related without at least a cameo from Jennifer Coolidge as Paulette Bonafonté (who ate crullers so Tanya McQuoid could binge “Oreo cookie cake”). Bruiser Woods, for what it’s worth, won’t be returning; Moonie, the Chihuahua who played him, died in 2016 (to be fair, a very good year to check out) at the ripe old age of 18—a news item covered, of all places, by CNN .

This also raises some questions about when, if ever, we’re going to get a Legally Blonde III film—as promised by Witherspoon as far back as 2018 and originally slated for a 2020 release. Mindy Kaling is on board to write the screenplay with Parks and Rec ’s Dan Goor, and with virtually all of the 2001 film’s supporting characters (including the Delta Nus) expressing interest in returning. On the one hand, maybe Barbie ’s billion-dollar box-office performance might give Reese the push she needs to move forward with production. On the other, how much longer can the fashion industry pretend it likes Barbie pink?

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