Blonde, the new Netflix Marilyn Monroe film, belongs to what one might term the Oliver Stone school of biopics—interesting at times, but absolutely unhinged in its relationship to reality. A Kennedy hit squad forcibly aborting a JFK/Monroe love child and a bisexual throuple involving Monroe and the sons of two movie stars are just two of the bizarre additions to Monroe’s life that director Andrew Dominik made in his film. The truth is that Monroe’s life didn’t need spicing up. There’s plenty of trauma, sadness, and psychological exploration to be had, all without the attempts at shock value that Dominik crassly shoves into Blonde.
Take Monroe’s adolescence, which Dominik all but skips, save for seeing her separated from her mentally unwell mother. Monroe hopped around foster homes growing up, was sexually abused as a child, and married an older man at the age of 16. That these details were left out of the film is baffling—the entire point of Blonde is to show how Monroe spent her life seeking security and approval from parental figures. Exchanging these real occurrences with contrived and occasionally sexualized plot points makes no sense. Was a threesome scene more necessary to the plot than Monroe’s entire first marriage?
If Dominik was really that dedicated to playing fast and loose with the facts of Monroe’s life, he could have done so in a way that was more interesting and actually had some possible basis: Monroe is rumored to have either been asexual or a closeted lesbian. The contrast between being the world’s most famous sex symbol and privately avoiding and disliking sex either with men or altogether makes for a more interesting character study than the half thought out nonsense than Blonde serves up.
Blonde follows Monroe from childhood to her suicide in 1962, focusing on Monroe’s attempts to find a sense of value and stability from her relationships. The film is adapted from Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name, and stars Ana de Armas as the tortured actress, with Xavier Samuel as her lover, Charlie Chaplin Jr.; Bobby Cannavale as her second husband, Joe DiMaggio; and Adrien Brody as her third husband, Arthur Miller. Much of the film’s odd narrative decisions stem from Oates novel—why Dominik felt fealty to the falsehoods in the book was more important than reality is unclear, but it certainly doesn’t work.