Netflix’s Blonde: A Real Marylin Monroe or Joyce Carol Oates’ Fiction?
Here’s a sneak peak in Marlyn’s head
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, Truth isn’t- Mark Twain.
However, worn out the sentence might sound, it holds the ultimate truth. While it also metaphorically answers the ongoing debate on Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde’s Netflix film adaptation. There are volumes on Marylin Monroe’s life from Marylin: Norma Jean to myriads biographies. She has left the trail to nibble on for years to come. Yet she remains the enigmatic, mystifying woman of her time. The more you read about her, the more she becomes distant and mystic. Every book brings to light a new dynamic of her character. The arch from her childhood to her murder or suicide at 36, every bit is documented. But the movie Blonde is sure as hell a blow that will leave you gobsmacked and reeling inside the story for days. The director, Andrew Dominik here is an Auteur actually, a role that he plays beyond the point of ingenuity.
Have you ever sneaked into someone else’s headspace. No! Right? You can never know what goes within someone’s mind. And that is the underlying reason for collective human pain. For all the daddy issues, mommy issues, family issues. But this movie is a window in Marylin’s head. While watching the movie you can sense her anxiety. The nearly-three-hour movie has one thread common. Anxiety. From her childhood to her rising as mega star in Hollywood to her abusive romantic relationships. She bleeds anxiety.
Blonde begins with Norma Jeane as a young girl being abused by her single mother. Fictional or not, Blonde is a recreation of an average childhood trauma building into a self-destructive adulthood. Marilyn is Norma Jean as a person, and her abandonment is the central force in the story. Her father’s absentia is the primary thread connecting the reel of her life. She is born out of wedlock and raised in scarce resource. Her father comes from Hollywood’s known figure and so mentioning his name is sin. Her mother is abusive and tries to drown her eerily in a bathtub. She is rescued by the foster family, who in turn abuses her. Sent to an orphanage and from there she makes her way to Hollywood.
Obviously, Blonde portrays Marilyn as lifelong Victim. But this movie’s central theme actually reveals, how a celebrated woman is exploited, used and abused. Also, the tradition of misogyny continues in men dominated agencies today. However, the book and the movie, both are missing the essential parts of Marylin’s whole life. Let’s imagine it’s a piece torn out from an encyclopedia. It's like entering into jigsaw puzzle. You jump from one incident to another, and still are trying to wrap your head up around the past traumatizing events. It is sure to scare you with the Hollywood's much debated #metoo. Being raped for her first debut to multiple sexual abuses to her dehumanizing affair with the popular JFK, and also highlights his villainous side.
The flashlights to bits and aspect ratio are purposely incomplete as they move to another episode of her life. Though, she’s been projected as a human flesh and dumb sexual object, but this might’ve construed the main theme of her life as well. Undoubtedly, Marylin Manroe was bold and bespoke, but her life crisis is suggestive of her initial naivete and credulity which remained with her in her relationships.
At the onset, it felt like a voyeuristic reel of Hollywood stars from that era. I am someone with no interest of that kind. But withing seconds the building of anxious thought strangulated me. She starts as a lovesick girl and then skyrockets as a self-made bombshell. Engaging in threesome with Charlie Chaplin’s son Cass and Edward Robinson’s son Eddy. They refer themselves as Gemini. May be Marylin might not have indulged in threesome in her real life, but the story elicits raw and primitive and overlapping emotions that human civilization has witnessed time and again.
Marylin’s overpowering fear and her miscarriages might not be precisely in line with her real life. Her divorce with Dimaggio, and sensual affair and marriage with Arthur Miller are empirical evidence of something close. Every man that comes to her, claims her in their different ways. Because the two men, Charlie Chaplin Jr and Robertson Jr dump their father-frustrations into her sexually. While DiMaggio violates her physically for her iconic shoot on the subway, Arhtur Miller sells her as the character of her story and John F Kennedy for his lewd fantasies.
And in terms of Ana de Armas’ incredible transformation, beyond hair and make-up, she has embodied Marylin psychologically too. The overt usage of words such as ‘Daddy’, ‘Dirty slut’ ‘Norma Jean’ are claustrophobic and enervating. She is oppressed and sad in entire movie, but not to forget this isn’t a movie but a reel of her thought process. As if you’ve climbed up someone else’s thought train. Ana does the best to imbibe those introspective moments by being her doppelganger.
The computer-generated imagery and the talking fetus are breathtaking. The scene where is she is literally drugged and dragged like a rag doll to Kennedy’s open bedroom chamber is shocking. I have heard stories of casual sex where men are busy with other regular chores while demanding sex, especially oral. That doesn’t restrain their bodies and can be multitasking. However fictional it has a shock value. Every fiction ever conceptualized has its roots in reality.
One harrowing aspect of the movie is her obsession with father figure. She calls her husbands as ‘daddy’. The longing of having father, and that it plays a crucial role in a young woman’s life to the extent that it can make way for abusive relationships. She’s even receiving letters anonymously as her tearful father, only to be revealed that it was Cass, Charlie Chaplin Jr just before her death.
It would be unfair to write the story here, so like Andrew Dominiks Blonde, I leave the review incomplete. The story is part fiction and part reality. I don’t take it as a part of Monroe’s legacy gone wrong, but the ugly face behind the stardom.