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Blonde Has Screened, And Critics Have A Lot Of Thoughts About Ana De Armas As Marilyn Monroe

Audiences have been anticipating seeing Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe when Blonde comes to Netflix in September. Aside from witnessing the detail de Armas brings to the iconic figure, the fact that Blonde is Netflix’s first NC-17 rated film has piqued the interest of potential viewers. Now that Andrew Dominik’s movie has premiered at the Venice Film Festival, critics are weighing in on the actress' performance and the movie that promises “to offend everyone,” according to the director.

Along with Ana de Armas, the film — which is based on the book by Joyce Carol Oates and is a fictionalized portrayal of Marilyn Monroe’s life — also features Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller, Bobby Cannavale as Joe DiMaggio, Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy, and many others. Let’s see what the reviews have to say about the film coming to Netflix subscribers on September 28. 

Bilge Ebiri of Vulture says Blonde is physically hard to watch and often “feels like a slaughterhouse seen from the animal’s point of view.” The abuse is repetitive, but the movie’s never boring, and Ana de Armas’ portrayal works, the critic says: 

Her performance is not quite what one might expect. She’s certainly committed fully to a part that requires intense physicality, tons of nudity, and tears. And she expertly mimics Monroe’s half-breathless style of speaking. But she still has traces of her accent, which the film doesn’t hide. That gives the whole endeavor a somewhat performative quality … which, of course, is the point of the movie. Ana de Armas doesn’t inhabit the role of Marilyn Monroe. Rather, the role of Marilyn Monroe inhabits Ana de Armas — like a tortured, possibly malevolent spirit.

Catherine Bray of Empire rates the movie 3 stars out of 5, saying the leading actress’ performance is powerful, and possibly too much so. The critic says while the book explains how Norma Jeane Baker exists separately from her stage persona, Andrew Dominik asks his lead to play a perfect Marilyn Monroe throughout. From the review: 

There’s a fine line between depicting the way Marilyn Monroe was underestimated, and joining in with that assessment. Blonde doesn’t always wind up the right side of that line, but has spectacular visual fireworks to spare.

Sophie Monks Kaufman of IndieWire grades the movie a C+, saying Blonde only further tarnishes Marilyn Monroe’s image with its story of victimization and exploitation. According to the review, Andrew Dominik admonishes the world for seeing the actress as nothing more than a breathy blonde with daddy issues, but then he treats her the same way. In the critic’s words: 

As interpreted through Dominik (who also adapted the screenplay himself), Norma will never reach that something better, not even for a second. He defines her strictly through what she does not have — direction, love, a dad — resulting in a gaping lack to De Armas’ earnestly committed performance; she is playing a character with no autonomy. Her task — which she carries off beautifully, tearfully, and often toplessly — is to show the wounds inflicted on her, like sentient memory foam.

Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair agrees with other critics that this nearly three-hour film is “brutal” to watch. Sixty years after Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death, this critic chooses to view Blonde through the lens of other women — including Britney Spears — who have been beaten down by the pressures that come with fame. The review questions if Andrew Dominik is aware that he is not dissimilar to the people he is demonizing: 

Blonde is a film partly about exploitation that might be exploitative itself. If the film is aware of that meta function, then there’s something interesting happening in it. If not, and Dominik thinks he is genuinely ennobling Monroe and expressing some kind of radical pity for her, then Blonde is a little perverse.

Owen Gleiberman of Variety addresses critiques of Ana de Armas’ casting, particularly in regards to her Cuban accent, saying he hears just “the flicker, the echo of a Cuban inflection,” and that a big deal should not be made of it, because the actress absolutely becomes Marilyn Monroe. In the critic's words:

It’s a luscious piece of acting with a raw scream tucked inside. De Armas has to create every nuance of Monroe’s fabulous surface, and she does — the big eyes that popped open with bedazzled adoration, the sunburst smile, the breathy voice of spun sugar that sounded like a grown woman pretending to be a little girl who mocked, with a glint of affection, her own theater of innocence. No actress alive is going to look just like Monroe (de Armas’ eyes are a dead ringer; her smile is a tad less ripe and more knowing), but with Marilyn the voice is everything — that’s where her personality lives — and de Armas nails it to an uncanny degree. In Blonde, she gives us nothing less than what we came for. She becomes Marilyn Monroe.

Blonde certainly sounds like a tough watch, but it’s undoubtedly a film many will want to experience for themselves – especially Marilyn Monroe’s biggest fans. The film will be available on Netflix on Wednesday, September 28. Be sure to check out our 2022 Netflix Movie Schedule to see what else is coming to the streaming service, as well as our 2022 Movie Release Schedule to start planning your next trip to the theater.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.