A Fire Burning Exercise In Empathy
I realized immediately after viewing Andrew Dominic’s horrifying unapologetic revenge masterpiece Blonde the first time that I had a big decision to make - The decision to recommend it to specific people that I KNOW wouldn’t have good things to say about it. Perhaps the opportunity to explain why Dominic made this particular film on Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean) would make for a good education on behalf of people who CLAIM to have feelings of empathy for her. I was keen to help. My overwhelming praise for the quality of Blonde’s filmmaking as well as my sentimental love towards the fallen angel of Marilyn Monroe all spoke in favor of the choice. BUT … after TWO more viewings of Blonde (All three of them were in theaters before Blonde arrives on Netflix tomorrow), many silent hours of reflection and careful consideration ………………. I think not.
Blonde has no general plot. It’s simply various moments in the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe who is portrayed with the utmost sophisticated talent by Ana de Armas who is now officially a household name in the neighborhood of cinema. Blonde is not a biopic. Most of what’s displayed just happens to be true and everything else is simply well-known rumors that while I know deep down to be true never afforded the luxury to be proven in real life. History just wasn’t documented the way it is today and there were some very powerful monsters who didn’t have to do anything beyond making a phone call to keep the truth buried.
Many think they know what Marilyn went through. Until they see Blonde, they don’t. They don’t even have a tiny sliver of an idea. I didn't even though I thought I did. Blonde is not a film you can psychologically prepare yourself for. I could download the link to the entire script into my review, you could read it from start to finish and you STILL won’t be prepared. You may be wondering why you would subject yourselves to Blonde. For one reason, I’m almost certain Ana de Armas will win an Oscar and you don’t want to be the person on the couch watching her win who didn't see the performance. Another reason would be out of respect for Marilyn.
I don’t usually care about a film's reception. I’m capable of making up my own mind but in this case, I feel it’s necessary to mention it because the reception is part of a much larger problem, not just in cinema but in society. All most critics have been able to do is complain ENDLESSLY about how barbaric Blonde is. Yes. It is indeed barbaric because that was her life. Marilyn Monroe started her own production company and she had a couple of people in her life who genuinely looked out for her but they weren’t powerful enough to save her from the wolves of Hollywood while she was much smarter than she was given credit for, she was too damaged and destroyed to save herself. Psychologically, she never really grew up from the little girl she was, her body simply grew from a child’s to a woman’s.
Who is Marilyn Monroe BEYOND her traumas? I have a pretty good idea and I’m sure there are others who do as well but she never got to figure it out. Critics are praising de Arma’s performance but complaining about the film because it makes them way too uncomfortable. They’re taking Monroe’s horrible life and making it about them. Great films can be made but that’s only half the battle. They have to not just be seen but talked about and talked about correctly.
I honestly believe censorship is one of the most wicked things on earth. It’s marketed as something to keep people safe psychologically but really it’s a slap in the face to anyone who's truly suffered. Most moviegoers have never been able to truly look deep into the abyss of absolute evil, absolute cruelty, and human suffering so as to gain somewhat of an understanding of how someone else is feeling. Turning away from anything that makes you deeply uncomfortable is its own kind of complicity. I really do see it as a form of abuse. Just the entitlement and arrogance that comes from complaints about how disturbing something is. It’s so tone-deaf. Do you think it’s disturbing to watch? How about thinking that what you see on screen it’s disturbing to actually live through.
How can society ever have true empathy for people in real life if they can’t even do it for people on screen? I don’t mind people expressing that something was hard to sit through as long as they don’t use it as an excuse for having not done it and they acknowledge that sitting through it was nothing compared to it happening in reality.
The controversy for Blonde really reminds me of the controversy The Handmaid’s Tale got during its first two seasons. Nothing was about the show, nothing was about what was happening in the show, it was all about how unsettling it was for viewers. The actual issues don’t go away but viewers want the luxury of turning it off and not dealing with them. They want to have their cake and eat it too.
As controversial as this sounds, I truly think that to have real empathy for someone with trauma, you have to digest just a little bit of it in you when you watch something like this.
My decision not to recommend Blonde to specific people simply stems from my being too exhausted to try and justify the film to them. I have to stay focused and my focus is on individuals like Marilyn and viewers who would like to partake in rational mature adult discussions about Blonde and any other film or show like it. Blonde is two hours and forty-five minutes. If you do decide to watch it, you have to stick with it. Otherwise, don’t bother, and don’t pretend to have any empathy for Marilyn. Watch it on a day off (Maybe at the beginning of the afternoon, NEVER in the evening or night) pull down all the shades so your surroundings will somewhat resemble a theater, don’t say ANYTHING for the entirety of your viewing and unless it absolutely can’t be helped, watch it alone. You’ll be more concentrated and want a silent hour afterward to reflect.
De Arma’s performance really is some of the most tremendous actings I’ve seen in a long time and I see great acting. She completely manifests herself into Marilyn and I believe Marilyn would be very proud of her. Adrien Brody deserves an Oscar nomination, if not a win for his performance as Arthur Miller. His accent and mannerisms are so addicting to turn away from.
He and Marilyn were so different. They weren't right for each other but they weren't toxic either. I don’t think they were ever meant to be married but they were meant to be in each other's lives. Sadly, Marilyn’s psychological problems worsened, the industry continued to mistreat her and the marriage ended but I truly believe in a way, they were each other's great loves of their lives. There are so many scenes I’d like to write about but I don’t even know how I would begin. They’re impossible to put into words, and it is better you go into Blonde knowing as little as possible. I will say that the affection between de Armas and Brody is so warm and tender. It’s really the big heart of the film.
Earlier I described Blonde as a revenge masterpiece. This is because many viewers (Myself being one of them) loved Marilyn’s films. We laughed at them and held them to our hearts growing up. To enjoy Marilyn’s work and not pay Blonde any attention is to profit off her suffering and I’m not going to partake in that.
The score, cinematography, and set design are equally as deserving of Oscar praise. I strongly look forward to it. A beautiful angel of mine recently said the purpose of life is to evolve. It doesn’t seem to me that most critics of Blonde are as interested in evolving. My focus is on those that are Blonde if analyzed properly will help to evolve you. It will raise an empathetic fire in your belly for those in pain.
Blonde is a film for angels who know how to have empathy and love for people. It is a film about an angel, an angel beloved by some and abused by many. The world breaks angels every day and Marilyn was an angel gone too soon. Try with everything in you to understand why Blonde is such a rare and important work. If you sit through the whole thing, I’m sure it will be easy for you to understand why. Blonde truly sew itself into a perfect dress. Critics just don’t want to deal with the feeling of the fabric.
Renner, B. D. (n.d.). Blonde movie poster - #646499. Movie Insider. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://www.movieinsider.com/posters/646499