Review Round Up: Blonde, Netflix

The new film based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates explores the life of Marilyn Monroe in a very different way and is set to be released on Netflix on the 28th September. But what have critics been saying about it?

The Guardian: *** “Well, there’s no doubting that de Armas gives this everything she’s got and that is a very great deal, an expert analogue performance digitally deepfaked into various hallucinations. She has striking scenes with DiMaggio’s disapproving Italian in-laws, and with Brody’s Miller, reducing him suddenly to tears with her artless insights into his work. Her performance is great; the film itself is self-satisfied and incurious.”

ABC News: “All praise to the raw and riveting Ana de Armas, the Cuban star of “Knives Out” and “No Time to Die” Bond girl who through the tools of makeup, hair and wardrobe — coupled with acting sorcery — delivers a performance that verges on reincarnation. She recreates Monroe’s breathy whisper of sexual compliance with a subtext of the nervous tension roiling underneath.”

The Observer: **** “Critics will claim (justifiably) that Blonde portrays Monroe as having no agency in this victimised life story, or that the movie fails to give her credit for the comedic panache she demonstrated in hits such as Some Like It Hot (tonally, Blonde is closer to the overheated psychosis of 1952’s Don’t Bother to Knock). It’s true that humour is in short supply, reduced to blackly comic gags about Kennedy watching rockets blast off while being dutifully fellated. Yet despite its note-perfect evocation of moments from Monroe’s life, I would argue that in the end Blonde isn’t really about Marilyn at all. It just happens to be wearing her wardrobe.” *** “Blonde’s greatest merit is its frankness – it tells you what it is about to do and then does it. It is a poignant framing for a film about a woman who lived her entire life denied that predictability.”

Roger ** 1/2 “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.”

Empire: *** “Perhaps one difficulty is that the visual Marilyn image is too powerful — who would willingly dismantle it? While a book can talk about how Marilyn existed as a separate entity to Norma Jeane, and allow us to mentally picture the real woman who exists before stepping on set, a visual medium like cinema must make a choice to show this or not, and Dominik opts to give us a perfect-looking Marilyn in every shot, no matter how absolutely at odds with or alienated from her screen persona Norma Jeane is feeling; more interested in sensual surfaces than interior lives, Blonde is elusive.”

The Upcoming: **** “In this nesting doll of performances, Ana de Armas gives a career-defining portrayal. She has mastered the breathy voice, the big ingénue eyes and, most importantly, the pain at the core of this woman, trapped in a projected surface.”

Vulture: “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.”

Slant Magazine: * 1/2 “Less problematic is the way that Chayse Irvin’s cinematography pays tribute to classic Hollywood film techniques. Blonde’s black-and-white scenes often mimic the high-contrast look of film noir, and exteriors subtly use CGI to create the uncanny valley effect of watching old films that use rear-projection backgrounds. Likewise, some of Monroe’s color features and their theatrical trailers are recreated with digital processes that, with their pulsing red and creamy eggshell hues, come startlingly close to capturing look of old Technicolor.”

Evening Standard: ** “Despite these huge problems – along with the seemingly interminable running time – there are some positives. Dominik is a gifted and inventive filmmaker. Here he plays with the colour and speed of the film, and there are some interesting moments, particularly when Norma Jeane is at the cinema and we enter an oneiric world that can be both magical and nightmarish.”

The Telegraph: **** “Andrew Dominik’s experimental, fractured study of Norma Jeane’s life is every bit as bold as the feverish advance word suggested.”

Radio Times: *** “It rages righteously at the industry and widespread misogyny that may have broken her; however, defining the actress by her trauma and disempowerment goes too far the other way, with Blonde often reducing this woman of substance and charisma to a photogenic victim, and her film roles getting relatively short shrift. Still, it’s an admirably compassionate and eye-opening effort which doesn’t half do a number on the Hollywood machine.”

The Times: **** “Ana de Armas is a revelation in this exploration of the film star’s tortured life.”

The Metro: ** “What keeps you riveted is Ana de Armas’s radiant, Oscar-worthy turn as Monroe.”

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