Blonde (2022)

Dominik plays the miserabilist here in a relentlessly grim work that could be both intolerable and misunderstood at the same time, reimagining and dissecting Marilyn Monroe as an exploited emblem of what is wrong with our phallocentric world. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #2,500

Dir. Andrew Dominik
2022 | USA | Drama | 166 min | 2.35:1 | English
R21 (Netflix rating) for some sexual content

Cast: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale
Plot: From her volatile childhood as Norma Jeane, through her rise to stardom and romantic entanglements, this reimagined fictional portrait of Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe blurs the lines of fact and fiction to explore the widening split between her public and private selves.
Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
Distributor: Netflix

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Dark/Mature – Women in Showbiz; Exploitation; Trauma
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

I have been looking forward to Blonde for the longest time.  Finally making its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Andrew Dominik’s first narrative feature since Killing Them Softly (2012) is either one of the most intolerable films of the year, or one of the most misunderstood.  Maybe it’s enigmatically both. 

It can be arduous at times to sit through though at nearly three hours—I don’t think it needs that long to make the point that being a woman in showbiz is a one-way trip to hell, with the key word here being ‘one-way’, as Dominik’s relentlessly grim film forces audiences into the meat grinder as well.    

Blonde could also have been titled ‘Killing Me Softly’.  Already a tormented figure in Hollywood history, Marilyn Monroe is tortured, exploited and given nary an ounce of sympathy, and perhaps that’s the point, which is to dissect her like a writhing frog in a lab. 

At this juncture, it must be clarified that the film is not intended to be an authentic biopic but a reimagination of Monroe as an emblem of what was wrong with the world then—and still is today. 

“I guess I was discovered.”

Some have called Blonde a faithful adaptation of the novel by Joyce Carol Oates—she has, in fact, come out to defend it as fiercely feminist (and to defend Dominik, who has unfairly received vitriol for simply just being male). If the exact same film had been made by a female auteur, it would have been labelled as courageous and essential.

Leading a dual life as Monroe the celebrity under the microscope of the male gaze, and Norma Jeane, who just wants an unsophisticated, quiet life as a mother to a child, the character is played by rising star Ana de Armas with an admirable level of conviction.  Her performance is excellent, but the film doesn’t quite do enough to make us care. 

Blonde is somewhat ultimately soulless, despite being technically assured, and at times, visually interesting.  It is quite obvious that Dominik is playing the miserabilist here—so the question is not whether the film is great or detestable, but how much we can buy into his vision. 

Are we perhaps too ‘woke’ and hence blinded by its true message?  Or did Dominik take the film’s phallocentric excesses too far, and thus lose its meaning? I’m curious as to what feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey might have to say about the film.

Grade: B-




  1. Very good point! If the film had been directed by a female it might be riding high in the charts now. I wish it could have been shown (experimentally) to an audience of critics who were led to believe this was the case. Alas, now we’ll never know.

    Liked by 1 person


      1. Yes, that would be the problem.
        However, I do think some research along these lines might be a practical possibility.
        Before a film publicly known about a studio could take a selected sample of film festival-goers (i.e. people who can be presumed to have been exposed to a wide variety of films in the past) and show them such a film having beforehand informed them it had been made by either a male or a female. Then we could know for sure whether this skewing effect is a thing, or not.
        Otherwise we are really just left to our conjectures and prejudices.
        Maybe you could use your influence to make it happen? Or get your students involved in such a project?

        Liked by 1 person

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