Directed by: Andrew Dominik
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Taylor Baker
“Blonde” is Andrew Dominik’s first feature-length film in a decade, excluding his two Nick Cave and Warren Ellis documentaries, “One More Time with Feeling” and “This Much I Know to Be True” respectively. His return is an eruption of light, magnitude, and humanity. Its various wrinkles are tautly conceived and blended into a mash of filmmaking that is as bold as it is controlled.
Adapted from the Historical Fiction novel by Joyce Carol Oates with which it shares a name, “Blonde” uses Marilyn as an interrogator of life and the human experience. Fame, anatomy, rebuke, sex, desire, longing, conception, addiction, shame, lust, loss, and heartache. It supposes that Marilyn was a role Norma Jeane played, like so many of us she assumed a new role that became central to her life after she played at it long enough. But her story is painful, it comes with rape, it comes with abuse, outbursts, and self-loathing. “Blonde’s” Marilyn is an allegorical character representative of so much but her name and place in history have caused many critics and commentators to want her to be shoehorned into so little. That’s part of the magnetism of Marilyn though, she’s as real, different, and distinctive from one person to the next as America.
“Blonde’s” world is kinetic. Shot by “BlacKkKlansman” cinematographer Chayse Irvin, he and Andrew Dominik expertly (and frequently) use aspect ratio to visually queue emotional states into the viewer, along with considerate camera placement, and perhaps the year’s most precise framing. Reenacting sound stages, iconic shots of culture and cinema, and conjuring their own original memorable images with ease. After Ana, the second star of the film might very well be its score. Co-written by the stars of the aforementioned pair of documentaries Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the duo invoke a fluctuating and intoxicating soundscape that arrests as well as it informs and inspires as well as it looms.
De Armas is convincing and arresting as Norma Jeane. Not unlike her role as Joi in “Blade Runner 2049” where de Armas plays a character of intensity and emotion but is also an icon, a typified canonical “living” ideal she once again embodies many facets of humanity in the lines of her face as she controls a smile during a close-up monologue, as she talks of Natasha in Chekhov’s ‘Three Sisters’ with Adrien Brody’s Arthur Miller, or finds a stuffed tiger serendipitously laying on the pavement. De Armas is all of us for a little bit, our scorn, our heartache, our belief, our delusion, our dreams, and our movie star.