Blonde has been described in some quarters as a horror story. It’s not, not remotely. It is, though, the saddest film ever laid before an audience, a sadness that is so wide and deep and endless it’s possible to drown in it.
The Netflix film belongs wholly to Ana de Armas who blazes with such intense light in every scene, almost every shot, with an intensity that makes it impossible to look away.
Her performance as the receptacle of that sadness captures heart-breaking layers and I would think an Oscar nomination has already been inked in.
But here’s the thing: despite what the publicity material says, it’s not a film about Marilyn Monroe. It’s a story about a symbol that just happens to resemble Norma Jean and her life. It’s there in the personality free title, in writer/director Andrew Dominik’s stylistic tics and flourishes which distance the work from real life and announce that we are not watching human beings here. And it’s in de Armas’ performance, where she plays the symbol that people have come to recognise when they hear the name Marilyn.
The script makes no attempt to capture the essence of the real-life Norma Jean, the humour, the sharp intellect, the kindness. Because The Blonde has a bigger story to tell, a mythological one.
Like every streaming film, I expect Blonde to have disappeared off the radar in a matter of months, never to be discussed again. But for now, if you can bear the emotional weight of sadness and suffering, it’s an interesting oddity and for de Armas it will undoubtedly be career-changing.