Blonde - Ana de Armas, Andrew Dominik, Joyce Carol Oates

How do we not have a thread for the movie that’s the talk of Hollywood?

It’s #1 on Netflix right now, but people absolutely HATE this flick.

Why? Ruth is watching it and was just telling me how much she likes it.

  1. Abortion. People that support pro-choice say it’s anti-abortion. People that are anti-abortion say it’s too gruesome and horrible.
  2. Some people feel it’s misery porn and paints Monroe in a bad light.
  3. Too sexy, but also too ugly.

Basically a variety of reasons that fall on either side of the political spectrum.

Then again Joyce Carol Oates’ book was divisive as well despite winning a lot of critical praise.

Sounds like #1 & 3 are coming from conservatives and/or men. #2, I’m not sure, I’d need more context. What are women saying?

I loved this. Dominik’s direction was mesmerizing. And although de Armas’ accent occasionally popped, it didn’t bother me because of how much craft and raw power she channels into her performance. Basically, her face carries the movie and Dominik knows it.

Huge thumbs up from me, even though I don’t really know the first thing about Marilyn Monroe, and especially for the reasons that some people might find it unpleasant. A stark and unflinching dissection of celebrity, sexuality, and mental illness.

According to a respected critic in the UK, you should treat it like a horror film and not like a biopic. If you go in with this mindset and you enjoy horror films then you will get a lot more out of it.

It’s certainly shot like a horror movie. And it includes some horrific scenes. In fact, I would say it’s adjacent to John Frankenheimer’s adaptation of Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust. Except whereas that movie culminates in a Hollywood apocalypse, Blonde is born in its Hollywood apocalypse. That brushfire scene in the beginning is amazing and definitely horror movie material!

I imagine this must be why it alienates people who would prefer a romanticized look at the golden era of Hollywood. Blonde does no such thing and it couldn’t be less interested in the glamor of the time period. It’s not even that erotic. I would say for a movie with so much nudity, most of it is emotional!

Andrew Dominik, Ana de Armas, and an enthusiastic recommendation from Tom Chick? I don’t think I could be more excited to check this out.

Again, I see both hate and love for the movie. Up and down the spectrum.

I think Tom may be right that people just want another glamorous biopic of Monroe, but this is not that at all.

Yeah, this might be similar to Spencer where some of the negative reaction may be coming from traditional biopic fans not knowing what they signed up for here. I’m curious!

I started watching this early this morning after reading several really horrible reviews and I found myself really enjoying it and wondering what the hell was wrong with my tastes :)

I think the advice to treat it like a horror movie is apt - I’m only half way through but I’ve been mostly captivated by the portrayal of the descent into sexual exploitation and mental illness.

Also, I should point out that I didn’t expect much. Dominik’s Assassination of Jesse James is a masterpiece, but Killing Them Softly didn’t make much of an impact on me, and I really couldn’t care less about a nearly three-hour biopic of some celebrity from well before my time.

So I fired up Blonde expecting to give up and move on if it didn’t grab me. For instance, I wandered out of Elvis after twenty minutes to go watch the Idris Elba lion movie instead (still not sure if that was a wise choice). So Blonde is unfurling and I’m digging it but poised to bail…and then suddenly the movie’s running time had passed me by and I didn’t even notice. One of the shortest nearly three-hour biopics I’ve ever seen!

I wasn’t going to even attempt watching this but have seen “Jesse James” so many times, that will push me over the edge to try this one out.

A few weeks back I was listening to the Exorcist episode of The Ringer’s Rewatchables podcast. And Chris Ryan (who is really good, and way better than Bill Simmons on this pod) brought up an interesting observation.

He mentioned that William Peter Blatty, did an interview/documentary discussing the huge popularity of The Exorcist, and said that the movie did more than just scare the hell out of contemporaneous audiences. It also, for two hours, made them feel alive. And Ryan pointed out that at that time – 1973 – you had a Hollywood that not only wasn’t afraid to provoke an audience, but actually had a lot of creators who wanted to provoke the audience, if they could. Near-porn movies like Last Tango were in movie theaters. We had some of the craziest, heart-racingest car chase scenes ever filmed. (Another one: it’s amazing to me that the Alex Kintner shark attack scene in Jaws was allowed to stay in, and the movie still got a PG. Could you even film that scene that way in 2022? Would it just automatically be a hard R these days? And let’s not even start on how the Exorcist only got an R rating, even with Regan’s crucifix scene.)

And now, even in a lot of independent cinema, it feels like the edges are completely filed down, both from filmmakers and audiences alike. You want sexy? You want horrific? You want seat-edge thrills? We got the internet for that. Major studio films have to hit certain time-worn tropes to make studio execs, and sadly audiences, happy. Indie movies can’t go too far, or risk not getting picked up by Netflix or Hulu or Prime. It feels like, since the late 1970s we’ve essentially trained generations of movie goers not to see movies that defy expectations, but instead try to predictably fulfill them.

So yeah. I watched Blonde last night. And it made me feel…wrung out by the end, in the kind of way that in my viewing emotional state is typically reserved for David Cronenberg movies. The scene that I think earned this movie its NC-17 rating was so incredibly uncomfortable to watch, and it just kept going and going and going…yeesh. But, my “Yeesh” is absolutely Dominik’s intent. And it fits the movie and and I think it works for how it is supposed to make the viewer feel.

Since I’ve become absorbed into the game Immortality, I’ve been absolutely devouring 1970s arthouse movies on Mubi (and when I can’t find the specific oddball weirdnesses there, good ol’ Rarelust has me covered), and man…movies of that time and place had that edge to them. And while Blonde isn’t a movie I’m super-eager to re-watch, I will watch it again, because it goes there unflinchingly and as Bill Blatty put it, it makes you feel alive (even if “alive” means kind of icked-out). And damn I want more movies and movie creators who’ll do that these days.

Great post, Chris, and what a great lens for reacting to Blonde. It really does feel like stumbling onto some kind of undiscovered artifact of filmmaking from another time, doesn’t it? Alien and unsettling. I’m reminded of being convinced by a friend to watch The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which I had conflated with Courtship of Eddie’s Father, so I had no idea what to expect. It was weird and raw and memorable and utterly unexpected. The 70s did that to you, didn’t they?

Well, I can’t very well not look into whatever this is.

EDIT: Oh, it’s that? Hmm. Intrigued.