"The Oldie is an incredible magazine - perhaps the best magazine in the world right now" Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former Editor of Vanity Fair

Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book

Subscribe

A Blonde Moment - say goodbye to the film about Norma Jean

Blog | By Amelia Milne | By Amelia Milne | Oct 08, 2022

Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 film Niagara (20th Century Fox)

Were diamonds Marilyn’s only best friends? Amelia Milne reviews the Netflix movie ‘Blonde‘


It’s the No. 1 watched film on Netflix right now, based on the novel by American author Joyce Carol Oates. Oates is a prolific fiction writer who is “occasionally baffling” says the New Yorker Magazine. The movie is hyped, scandalous and 100 per cent controversial. It purposely leaves people feeling upset for poor old Marilyn. It winds people up, creates a stir and pulls in large viewing numbers. It’s a scandalous machine. Critics have pleaded audiences to watch a real Marilyn movie instead like “Some Like It Hot” or to read her unfinished autobiography “My Story” and get a true sense of what her life was like in her own words.

The reviews are terrible with some viewers reportedly switching off after 20 minutes. I stayed the whole length of the film with my hands on my head, cringing at most of the scenes not knowing quite why I was lasting the long haul with this film with some grim fascination. One heavily criticised scene in particular includes JFK and is a “I don’t know where to look moment”. I wished my grandfather was still alive to barricade the television if anything unsightly appeared on it.

As a viewer you watch the film to learn more about Marilyn, wanting answers about her death. Will this film reveal all? I’m afraid that it doesn’t. It merely focuses on the scandals of her life, wrapped up in amazing costumes, good performances from Anna de Armas who with 3 hours of make up, you will double take to be Marilyn. Two actors who both look like Rupert Everett with dark floppy locks, make up the Gemini ‘throuple’ with Marilyn- her affair with them both leads her to abort Cass Chaplain’s baby which is yet another great sadness in her life. Childloss is a major theme. However, reportedly this relationship with Cass isn’t confirmed as being true.

As a child Norma Jean’s mother was a mad alcoholic nearly killing them both in a house fire. Her mother tries to drown her in a bath, a terrible scene but USA Today says “there is no evidence” that this happened. Her mother is sent to a mental institution. Norma Jean longs for her father but he never appears. As Marilyn, she sings “everyone needs a da da Daddy” obsessed with finding her father and latching onto father figures in the process. Some kind neighbours take Norma Jean under their wing but drop her into an orphanage. She is constantly being let down and is a lost soul. Not belonging is the general theme of her flippant life, dropping her clothes for any producer who can further her career.

Does she belong to Hollywood? Hollywood owns her, they plague her and tarnish her with being a dumb blonde even though she is well read on authors such as Chekhov and Dostoevsky. The film switches from black and white to colour throughout. Whilst this is a clever cinematic trick, it seems to add to the general darkness like a bad dream.

Critics have suggested that Marilyn wasn’t the “weak-willed, pathetic victim” that this movie portrays her as. Supporters say that she was witty and had strong principles. She was a Global Globe winner and campaigned for justice for her friend Ella Fitzgerald in the 1950s when Ella was not allowed to perform in an LA nightclub due to her skin colour. Marilyn led a successful campaign for her friend Ella who was then booked to sing adding a great deal of publicity around this case. Marilyn also stood up for female pay and walked off set when a male actor’s salary was more than hers. She had her own production company and was a philanthropist. She made at least 42 movies which is quite an accomplishment. She was a work horse.

Her friendship with Frank Sinatra and the Brat Pack ended in destruction as they were all fuelled by barbiturates and she became like her mother, the very character traits that she had run away from. Critics beg us to focus on the positives of Marilyn and defend her; we want her painted in a better light than this. The Hollywood starlet whose only best friends were diamonds. It wasn’t poor Marilyn’s fault, it was Hollywood’s and here it is once again, doing it’s worst.