All Marilyn Monroe films are exploitative. But the nightmarish blonde actually shows you her vagina

Blonely, the new Netflix film directed by Andrew Dominik, adds as many nuances to the idea of ​​Marilyn Monroe as can be gleaned from a gynecological exam. The bombastic movie star has long been established as a tragic figure, a woman who was abused by Hollywood studios, her husband Joe DiMaggio and her ailing mother’s child. Rather than defying conventional narrative, director Dominik’s nightmarish film, adapted from Joyce Carol Oate’s 2000 novel, takes us to an even darker and even more invasive place. To understand Marilyn Monroe, it suggests, one must first enter her womb.

This dark drama takes us into the previously unexplored depths of Marilyn Monroe’s vagina multiple times during its amazing running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. I’m not going to “spoil” them all, but for the film’s first hour we watch as Monroe, played with chilling frailty by Ana de Armas, excitedly clutches her stomach as the camera cuts to her glowing lap — complete with a spooky backlit fetus. A few scenes later we follow Marilyn onto the operating table where doctors perform an abortion she didn’t consent to. “Please, aren’t you listening? I’ve changed my mind,” she pleads as her doctor inserts the speculum—a process cruelly frontally portrayed from the perspective of Marilyn’s own cervix.

Dominik insists on his film’s animation principle, which itself feels like a derivation of the famous Rita Hayworth line about her most iconic and seductive film role: “Men go to bed with Gilda and wake up with me.” Im Blond, toadies, and bigwigs hoping to snag a piece of the Hollywood starlet instead find a shy, desperate woman named Norma Jeane, who just so happens to look exactly like Marilyn Monroe. That might be interesting as a side note, but the film makes that clear time and time again. “She’s pretty, but she’s not me,” says Norma Jeane, looking at a glamorous photo of herself in a magazine. “F*** Marilyn,” Norma Jeane later yells into the phone. “She is not here.”

If Dominik’s point is that Marilyn is a fabrication — “Baby’s first toy,” notes one of her lovers cryptically — then perhaps these scenes of torturous body horror are the director’s sadistic means of reminding us that she’s more than hers two-dimensional projection. When you force Marilyn Monroe to have an unwanted abortion, doesn’t she scream in wordless agony? And when Norma Jeane becomes pregnant again years later, won’t her unborn fetus acquire the ability of human speech?

I promise you read that right. In one of the film’s most disturbing body sequences, Marilyn’s surprisingly talkative fetus – who somehow also has knowledge of her previous abortion – begs its host to continue with that pregnancy. It’s not just “alive” in the eyes of Blond, it has a will. Marilyn can hear it. She responds loudly, as if they were talking. I had to watch this scene multiple times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but no – right in the middle Blondthere is a disturbed one Look who’s talking Precursor.

From a political point of view, these scenes of a woman burdened with years of abortion regret are highly controversial. As a mode of storytelling, they are completely alienating. Marilyn Monroe never shines less real for me as if she were happily conversing with the unborn child in her fantastically radiant womb. Am I to believe that all movie stars are lit from within?

Marilyn also never feels more like a Hollywood toy than when Dominik subjects her to gory sexual and medical violence, literally probing her and barbarically portraying what it feels like to be one of the most famous women of the 20th century from the inside out. Blond is not a movie around Marilyn Monroe’s exploitation, but a new deep-water mark in Hollywood’s handling of her – a sex object reduced to a sex organ. All Marilyn Monroe films are exploitative. But the nightmarish blonde actually shows you her vagina


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