Candy pink dress on the red carpet: in early September, actress Ana de Armas, interpreter of Marilyn Monroe in Blonde hair, ignited the Venice Film Festival. A few days later, the first French screening of this pure Netflix product (and produced by Brad Pitt), took place at the Deauville Festival, a way to increase the visibility and legitimacy of a film that will not be released in theaters. Andrew Dominik’s feature, coming to Netflix the day it hits theaters Without filter, palme d’or at Cannes, does it deserve its flattering reputation?
Rarely do literary masterpieces turn into great films. Once again we have proof of this with Blonde hair, a flashy adaptation of the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, published in 1999. Inspired by the life of Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Baker in 1926, the American writer approached the myth through an exploded narration, hypothesizing a split personality, almost schizophrenic, the woman looking at the icon as a bizarre extension of herself. Based on this idea of contradiction between the woman and the actress, the inside and the outside, Andrew Dominik tries to remain faithful to the novel by keeping the biopic at a distance without being able to save the key episodes of the life of the actress. actress: the unhappy childhood, the beginnings of starlet in Hollywood, the marriages with the ex-baseball champion Joe DiMaggio then the playwright Arthur Miller, the affair with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the tragic death. Behind the legend, Marilyn was a fragile woman, hurt by the absence of an unknown father, alcoholism and then her mother’s mental illness, locked up for life in a specialized institution.
Featuring a classy cast, including Adrien Brody (a believable Arthur Miller), the film is based on the star’s well-known photos, which it brings to life by showing off-camera: the poster for Seven years of reflection and the white dress lifted by the breath of an air vent, Marilyn wrapped up in a wool vest, walking on a beach in Maine, the actress attending the Actors Studio classes in a black turtleneck and cigarette pants… Alternating vintage color and black and white, Andrew Dominik takes great care over details and deploys an abundance of effects. Everything is highlighted, pressed with filters, zooms and close-ups on a key turning in a lock, a telephone ringing to announce bad news, the red flower of a dress invaded by the blood of a fake layer. It wouldn’t be so bad if the director didn’t inflict on us three times a close-up of a fetus in computer-generated images (the child that Marilyn will never have) and a subjective camera view of the inside of the vagina of the star, opened by the speculum of the doctor who aborts it by force.
If certain scenes are successful – the crowd that engulfs the actress at the previews, the sordid reunion with Kennedy at the White House – the film rings false, constantly finding its way between the meticulous reconstruction and the attempt to deconstruct. Prisoner of a formal gangue and a direction of actors that leaves her no space, Ana de Armas embodies a sacrificial victim who bats her eyelashes and cries every three shots. In the eponymous novel, Joyce Carol Oates made Norma Jeane such a powerful character that we almost forgot it was Marilyn. Impossible to forget here as everything is fabricated, passed through the grinder of an image that is too licked, which fascinates and sickens at the same time. A bloated film, strangely unsuited to the small screen.
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The Marilyn myth at the Netflix grinder