‘Blonde’ critics dismissing creativity
Fictionalize Monroe film undeserving of vitriol
Every week I hear or see a podcaster or critic complain about how they “don’t make movies like this anymore” while talking about an older, non-superhero classic. And I agree, for the most part, that much of what is coming out is super similar. There’s more content than ever before and much of it is only passably good. That being said, almost none of it is great, and, production-wise, they almost all look and feel the same. Almost nothing coming out of Hollywood feels unique. Or brave. I know it, you know it, and the critics know it.
Enter Andrew Dominick’s fourth feature film, Blonde, recently released in theaters and on Netflix. The fictionalized account of Marilyn Monroe’s life based on Joyce Carol Oates’ best-selling novel is bold, brave, unique, and it looks and feels like nothing you’ve ever seen. And people … hate it. Go figure.
Starring Ana de Armas and Adrien Brody, as well as Fort Wayne native Dan Butler, Blonde is suffering the wrath of the puritanical echo chamber known as Film Twitter.
All the complaints are what you’d expect — black-and-white minded gripes about everything but art. The gender of the filmmaker is problematic. Things the filmmaker says in interviews are problematic. The storytelling is problematic.
Everything is problematic. Welcome to 2022, where joining the crowd to complain, for some reason, feels really good to a lot of people. Get in line, do what others are doing, don’t push us to think. This is, from my perspective, what the current film viewer is like.
I’m not one of these people.
I watched Blonde twice and was pretty blown away by how inventive, brave, and brutal the filmmaking is. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen a film this brutal on this scale before. So, assuming you’ve seen the film (or plan to watch it) let’s talk through some of the major gripes …
Dominick doesn’t care about his subject. So silly. Anyone who has ever worked in film knows how impossibly hard it is to make a movie, especially a production epic like Blonde. You don’t commit that much of yourself to something if you don’t care about it. Does Dominick treat the subject of the film, Monroe, properly? Who are you or I to say? I will say this: he treats her, as a subject, much different than anyone else has. And, also, he’s right, most of Monroe’s films do not hold up and do not have great legacies.
Blonde is hard to watch. It is, but isn’t all the best art challenging? Go into this one expecting an epic, super-artsy film that is probably closer to being a horror film than a biopic.
Monroe is being misrepresented. Says who? You? Every choice in this film means something. If something upsets you or seems off, I suggest asking yourself why the filmmaker would do what he did. It’s fun, thinking. Especially about high-concept work like Blonde.
Joe DiMaggio and JFK are misrepresented. Says who? You? A stranger on Twitter? See above.
The film is too brutal and too nasty. From what I know, Monroe’s life was brutal. Extremely brutal. That’s kind of the point of the film. Not in the mood for brutalism? Easy: Don’t watch it. Go watch the forgettable My Week With Marilyn instead.
I could go on. It takes hundreds of people thousands of hours to make a film like this. This is high-end arthouse filmmaking at a notably brave level. What do you think complaining about a film like this does? I’d suggest that it further sterilizes our greatest form of modern art, and that concept upsets me. I love the cinema arts about as much as anything, and seeing such a curious, bold work be dismissed in such a thoughtless way hurts.
I think Blonde is probably a new classic, one that, like Darren Aronofsky’s Mother, will have a legacy that unfolds over time, as we (hopefully) get away from this period of puritanical groupthink and head toward, fingers crossed, a time in our culture where people rediscover the simple concept of thinking for themselves.
Either way, the greatness of this work (not just by Dominick, but by the cast and director of photography) is certainly being recognized by a whole lot of other filmmakers and cinephiles. That’s usually what matters for a film’s legacy, not armchair echo chamber viewers.
In short: Think for yourself. Think harder. See Blonde. If nothing else, watch the fire sequence.