The polarizing film Blonde explores the life of Marilyn Monroe, and it’s not exactly clear what’s fact and what’s fiction. It’s based on Joyce Carol Oates’s 2000 novel of the same name, which she has admitted is not a biography of the famous actress. But it’s still a fictionalized history, and as such, it’s often difficult to discern whether director Dominik is exploring Monroe’s life with fidelity or exploiting her anew.
Certainly, the film does not shy away from the darkest moments of Monroe’s downward spiral. But that isn’t necessarily a good thing.
For example, Blonde depicts her illegal abortions by using photoreal CGI to show fetuses that talk to Monroe—a disturbingly graphic scene just three months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Similarly, the film’s portrayal of Monroe’s forced oral sex with President John F. Kennedy is gratuitous and exploitative.
Despite these scenes, though, Blonde is also able to capture some of what made Monroe the icon that she was—the way her lustful come-on could seem both nurturing and sinister. This makes the film’s conclusion, which finds Monroe lying dead in her bathtub, both heartbreaking and a bit sadistic, and it is here where Blonde shines brightest. Blonde