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Heartbreaking or Just Painful? “Blonde” Takes Viewers on a Nearly Three-Hour Emotional Journey

By Lizz Panchyk

“Blonde” is a two-hour and 45-minute film about the life and career of Marilyn Monroe, based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates that is now out on Netflix. It’s supposed to be more fictionalized and less of a documentary, similar to the new movie, “Elvis” with Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, also new this year. While it is a story of Monroe’s life, the details may not be completely factual, though making implications of what her life might’ve been like. The movie is rated as NC-17, which is a fair rating, since a lot of the material was heavy and difficult to watch.

Ana de Armas, who plays Norma Jean Baker (Marilyn Monroe) on Netflix’s new movie “Blonde.” Image from Flickr

The beginning starts out with Norma Jean Baker as a child with her mother, who has some drinking and mental health issues. One night, after her mother had threatened her daughter’s life, little Norma Jean ran to her aunt and uncle to help her. Her mother was put away to get help, and eventually she was put in an orphanage, still hoping her father would someday come back.

It flashes forward to when Norma Jean becomes Marilyn Monroe and starts modeling and acting. Monroe is played by the actress Ana de Armas, who depicts the starlett with a breathy voice and often at times unable to speak up for herself; a girl who is quite troubled. Although Monroe’s on-stage characters were often portrayed as the “dumb blonde,” she was actually quite intelligent as a real person. What makes this movie difficult to watch is how Monroe is portrayed as a sort of dazed woman, somewhat in her own world as if she was constantly acting like that woman in the movies.

The movie itself goes back and forth between color and black and white, and different frame sizing between scenes, which makes it slightly difficult to watch as everything keeps changing. Perhaps the film color is a play on happy and sad points in Marilyn Monroe’s life?

However, there is no way to tell why it was decided to be edited that way. It just makes it confusing for a viewer to follow. And the blurring effects hurt your eyes. There is also a lot of sudden loudness and silence throughout the nearly three-hour film, so do be aware of your sound.

But the scene where Monroe sits in the back of a car to be brought to the doctor perfectly reflects the imagery towards the beginning of the movie when she was being driven to be dropped off at the orphanage. The similarity between the two scenes is quite obvious and beautifully depicted– a perfect comparison of Norma Jean Baker and Marilyn Monroe.

What is cool is the reenactment of Monroe’s original movies using Ana de Armas instead of using original movie clips. This includes “Some Like it Hot” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” among others. It must’ve taken a lot of detail to recreate such infamous scenes, but nevertheless, it came out looking realistic; you may have to do a double take.

The exploration of Monroe’s life focuses on her marriages, her film career, her pregnancies and her constant longing to find her father as she never knew him. While the base of the facts are true, it’s the in-betweens that aren't necessarily factual, but perhaps built on what’s known about her life. And if you know anything about Marilyn Monroe’s life, you’ll be able to separate the facts from the fantasies.

“Blonde” is an emotional roller coaster where the audience closely watches the downfall of Monroe’s life and how her mental health affects her and eventually leads to her demise. You may have sympathy towards her storyline, but you very well may be cringing throughout the rest of this depiction. A lot of it includes the sexualization of young Monroe, topics about abortion, and her struggle to differentiate Marilyn Monroe from Norma Jean Baker. While “Blonde” raises a lot of questions of her life and includes questionable editing and somewhat disturbing scenes, it is a fine portrayal of being a Hollywood actress in the 1950s and the not-so-glamorous aspects behind the gleaming smiles and shuttering cameras. But if you’re eager for facts and not myths, do watch a documentary in lieu of this reimagination and save yourself from a traumatizing experience.

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