Andrew Dominik's NC-17-rated Marilyn Monroe movie is finally available to watch! Here's a breakdown of all the details and why it is so controversial.
Back when we were still waiting for Netflix and Andrew Dominik’s fantastical and fucked up biopic of Marilyn Monroe— an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ loose reimagining of the star’s life, Blonde — we were promised that the movie would “offend everyone”. Well, now the movie is finally here and it has stayed true to it’s word, with Blonde causing an endless stream of controversy and diving critics and audiences alike.
Got your attention? Here’s everything to know about Netflix’s Blonde and the controversies surrounding it.
Where can I watch the trailer for Blonde?
Here! Netflix dropped the official, full length trailer for the film after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival was announced. Watch Ana as Marilyn as she poses in white dresses, confronts her adoring public, and crashes her car in a road rage — all to the dulcet tones of a slow “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” cover. Perfection. The second trailer, in which we see Ana’s depiction of the icon in a little more detail, can be found above.
What is the plot of Blonde?
Who else is in the cast of Blonde?
Alongside Ana is Bobby Canavale (I, Tonya) and Adrien Brody (The French Dispatch) as Marilyn’s second and third husbands, the Yankee’s player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller respectively. Her mother, actress Gladys Pearl Baker, will be played by Julianne Nicholson (Mare of Easttown) whilst John F. Kennedy, Marilyn’s rumoured lover, will be played by Caspar Phillipson. Of course, Caspar also played JFK in another biopic: Pablo Larraìn’s Jackie.
Who is behind the camera of Blonde?
The decade-long project has been the baby of writer and director Andrew Dominik — who is also known for the neo-noir movie Killing Them Softly (2012) — since the very beginning. He also brought the star of that movie, Brad Pitt, in as a producer on Blonde, alongside two-time Oscar winning producers of 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner. Working on the movie’s music are Nick Cave and Warren Ellis of the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – something of a favour, after Andrew produced an acclaimed documentary on the group.
What is the runtime of Blonde?
When first pressed by Collider to give us an idea of the runtime, Andrew gave a blunt answer: “Mate, that’s like asking a woman her age.” Blonde has been rumoured to be extremely long since it wrapped filming (the book after all, is over 700 pages thick). At one point, it was thought the movie would have a runtime in excess of three hours. It’s been chopped a little, but not too much: at the announcement of its Venice Film Festival premiere, it was finally confirmed the movie will run at 2 hours 45 minutes long.
What rating has Blonde been given?
So why is Blonde dividing critics and audiences opinions?
Specific scenes in the movie — ones which likely earned Blonde it’s NC-17 rating including moments of sexual assault, an abortion and the movie’s Marilyn performing oral sex on John F. Kennedy — have been described as graphic and difficult to watch by many. Ana de Armas though, has spoken out and defended the movie’s explicitness. “It’s harder for people to watch [those scenes] than for me to make them, because I understood what I was doing and I felt very protected and safe,’ Ana told Entertainment Weekly. “I didn’t feel exploited because I was in control. I made that decision. I knew what the movie was doing. I trusted my director. I felt like I was in a safe environment… I knew exactly what the shot was going to be. I knew exactly what was going to be seen, what was not going to be seen, and it felt like it was the right thing to do.”
The film has also been accused of framing Marilyn as a helpless figure, stripping her off that aforementioned influence and power in her field. The New Yorker called it “ridiculously vulgar—the story of Monroe as if it were channelled through Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ”. But the Globe and Mail called it a “meta-contextual epic tracing the rise and fall of Marilyn Monroe”. Writing for i-D, Xuanlin Tham called it “a ‘biopic’ that’s less interested in historical faithfulness and more in why we remain captivated by the same, unreachable stars…”
“I’ve been hearing a lot about this Marilyn Monroe movie Blonde, which I haven’t seen yet, but I’m not surprised to hear that it is yet another movie fetishising female pain, even in death,” Emily said in a TikTok video. “We love to fetishise people in pain. Look at Amy Winehouse. Look at Britney Spears. Look at the way we obsess over Diana’s death. The way we obsess over dead girls and serial killers.” Emily went on to describe how she believes more people should be vocal and pointed about their disdain: “I think we all need to be a little more pissed off… 2022 is my Bitch era. I’m going to be pissed off when I see this movie. I already know it… I’m just going to get angry.”
Planned Parenthood, too, have also recently called out scenes within the movie where a baby-looking foetus says to Marilyn “You won’t hurt me this time, will you?” as ‘anti-abortion agenda’. “While abortion is safe, essential healthcare, anti-abortion zealots have long contributed to abortion stigma by using medically inaccurate descriptions of foetuses and pregnancy. Andrew Dominik’s new film, Blonde, bolsters their message with a CGI-talking foetus, depicted to look like a fully formed baby.”
Responding to a question in an interview with Deadline on Marilyn Monroe’s agency, and the role she played in her own fall from grace, director Andrew Dominik dropped another controversial clanger in the mix. Andrew rightly pointed out that Marilyn was a power figure in Hollywood, a trailblazer in fact. “I’m aware, for example, that in real life Marilyn Monroe was one of the people that broke the studio stranglehold over players under contract,” he said, speaking of the constricting deals stars were expected to sign back in the day. “She got in a war with 20th Century Fox and got a whole bunch of deal points renegotiated, which was unprecedented.”
It’s used as evidence that she was considered smart, he says. “… like anyone, she would make these stabs towards being in control of her life, but she clearly wasn’t in control of her life. Any person that’s killing themselves is not a figure of female empowerment. As much as we want to reinvent Marilyn Monroe as the female du jour, I don’t think that that’s responsible.”
Also, when the trailer dropped earlier this summer, some viewers reportedly took issue with Ana’s native Cuban accent being slightly audible within her portrayal of Marilyn’s signature breathy tones. Ana has previously told The Times that she spent nine months working on the accent with dialect coaches: “It was a big torture, so exhausting. My brain was fried.” With the movie being about the artifice of celebrity and the performance of the figure of Marilyn, others have argued that the Cuban accent only adds to the overall message.
everyone seems fixated on ana de armas’ accent in BLONDE but i think that only makes the film more interesting; it emphasizes the inherent artifice in biopics (and in acting overall), which imo is appropriate in a work seemingly dedicated to exploring artifice versus reality
— the morally corrupt juan barquin (@woahitsjuanito) July 28, 2022
Andrew has also said though that he felt it was the right time for the movie to come out with our current culture and how it might have differed if it arrived in cinemas earlier. “If it had come out a few years ago, it would have come out right when #MeToo hit and it would have been an expression of all that stuff,” he said. “We’re in a time now, I think, where people are really uncertain about where any lines are… It’s a film that definitely has a morality about it,” he added. “But it swims in very ambiguous waters because I don’t think it will be as cut-and-dried as people want to see it. There’s something in it to offend everyone.”
How does the Marilyn Monroe Estate feel about the movie?
Though the Marilyn Monroe Estate did not authorise the movie, nor have they been involved, they did defend Ana’s casting, with its owner Marc Rosen stating: “Marilyn Monroe is a singular Hollywood and pop culture icon that transcends generations and history. Any actor that steps into that role knows they have big shoes to fill. Based on the trailer alone, it looks like Ana was a great casting choice as she captures Marilyn’s glamour, humanity and vulnerability. We can’t wait to see the film in its entirety!”
Does Blonde have a release date?
Blonde is in select theatres and on Netflix now.