The umpteenth dissertation into the wild allure and tragic life of Marilyn Monroe, Blonde – not a biopic but an adaptation of a novel by Joyce Carol Oates – is a hot mess. Miscast, overwrought, and pretentious beyond belief, it might have succeeded as camp if it weren't so damn bloated.
Director Dominik, who also penned the screenplay, depicts the erstwhile Norma Jean(e) Baker's life as one long nightmare of lost fetuses and heartless men. Perhaps it was to a great degree, but Blonde, for all its 2 hours and 46 minutes of Freudian torment, fails to capture any of Monroe's humor or charm – the very things that made her stand out from all the other starlets. Here she is such a self-serious, hysterical wreck that you wonder what anyone saw in her besides the obvious. And frankly I wonder if the obvious is all that Oates and Dominik saw in her. Blonde's Marilyn is a martyr, not a person.
As for the film's leading lady – poor Ana de Armas. I've seen her in a few pictures; she can be good. But here she's hopelessly lost, constantly struggling to tamp down her native Cuban accent as she apes Monroe's breathy, cooing speech – forgetting that the late star didn't actually talk like that 24/7. Ironically, she's most convincing as the public Marilyn, in reenactments of famous movie scenes and Hollywood premieres. As the private Norma Jean, you never believe her for a second. Dominik might well argue that de Armas being woefully out of her depth is an intentional analogue for Monroe being woefully out of her depth, but don't believe it. This is just bad casting.
I will note that Chayse Irvin's cinematography – Blonde constantly switches between color and black and white – is spectacular, but while Dominik crafts a handful of incredible images, he indulges in so many over-the-top "visual experiments" that it becomes absurd, like a parody of an art film. Equally distracting is the weird synth score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, which sounds like 1980s Vangelis.
In short, Blonde is a disaster, albeit a pretty-looking one.