The new film from director Andrew Dominik is rated NC-17, which means that—unlike R rated films—no one under 18 can be admitted to the film even with an adult. But what causes Blonde to be NC-17 instead of R? Is it sexual content or language? Is it violence or disturbing content? Again, why is Blonde rated NC-17, and not R? Viewers will need to see this brilliant film and decide for themselves.
Blonde is the story of the life of Norma Jeane, aka Marilyn Monroe. Ana De Armas plays Norma Jeane. The film opens with many harrowing moments from Norma Jeane’s disturbing childhood. Gladys is Norma Jeane’s mother, and she is played by Julianne Nicholson. After the disturbing events for Norma Jeane at a young age, the film jumps to her life of glamour and fame, when she becomes blond and takes the name Marilyn Monroe. From there, Blonde is an intense exploration of the good and the bad times of this complex woman. Dominik does not hold back on the drastic facts or information, which may be true or not, about the wild and dangerous life of Norma Jeane or Marilyn Monroe. It is lethally enticing.
Blonde is based on the award-winning novel by Joyce Carol Coates. With intense realism, the film is a blur of many emotions. As the film moves toward the fame days for Marilyn Monroe, the unsettling backstory continues. With quiet, sad, or harsh moments, the cinematography fades to black and white. These black and white fading transitions are one of the most effective film techniques I have seen in a life story adaptation in a long time.
Marilyn’s acting contracts and her relationships are the most cohesive aspects of her life, fueling the many emotions of the film’s storyline. Her relationships go in chronological order with those relationships involving Cass (played by Xavier Samuel), Eddy (played by Evan Williams), the ex-athlete (played by Bobby Cannavale), and the playwright (played by Adrian Brody). With all the odd or twisted relationships, and her mental health problems, Dominik’s direction makes the characterizations seem very authentic.
Dominik is also the screenplay writer for Blonde, and his writing is faithful to keep his audience in tune with the new chapters or new events in Norma Jeane’s life. And Armas is the true lady to portray the role of Norma Jeane. She has the voice, the looks, and the aptitude. She also stays in character and is amazing in her role. Her performance is Oscar-worthy.
Blonde was definitely one of the best cinematic experiences of the year for me. I have not seen a director who uses technology as well as Dominik does to shift the emotions of his audience. Viewers will certainly feel sorry for Norma Jeane, but Dominik also makes viewers hope that there is still light for her. Blonde’s tagline, “Watched by all seen by none,” is one that is important to the dark and uncharted territories for Norma Jeane. The film’s overall message is that money and fame are not the key to happiness. To the contrary, they can be the key to dark places and, for Norma Jeane, they can bring disconnect from family, mixed up relationships, and abuse.
From my experience, the heartbreaking moments on a film like Blonde can actually create a sense of connection for its audience. And as someone who appreciates film and cinema in many forms, I loved so much about Blonde. What I truly appreciate it for, though, is how it proves that even for the famous, that there can be times of tremendous struggle. Four stars for Blonde.