People interested in watching Blonde, or knowing how it is, mostly fall under three categories: fans of Ana de Armas, fans of Marilyn Monroe, or fans of both the actors. I am somewhere between categories one and three.
I have read about Monroe's life in brief, and know of her history of psychological disturbances, and her unfortunate demise. However, I haven't seen her work as on actor. I went in mostly for Ana, with some amount of curiosity about the dark life of the vintage diva.
There's a saying that goes, "Art should comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable." Blonde definitely did one of those two things to me (I won't mention which one).
The film moves from segment to segment, and lacks a narrative thread. Although there is a flow to the story, it feels more like a story in the perspective of a journalist, and less like that of a novelist. First the film covers the impact her mom had on her life, then it moves on to her bitter audition experiences that came with physical abuse, to be followed up by her relationships, and finally her death.
The moments pass by like a semi-montage, and it's hard to stay in a moment and absorb it properly. It becomes difficult to naturally travel with her and imbibe her emotions. On the other hand, the film almost transfers the nervous angst that Monroe constantly goes through, to the audience, that it gets taxing after a while.
Perhaps, that's what the film intended to do. To carry a semblance of the chemical reactions that went in the diva's head all through her life, for a couple of hours to the viewers. But then there could have been more of an effort to get us invested in her as a person. The way it was made, the film expected you to already be rooting for her, or at the least support her because she is having a hard life. There was no element of attraction toward the character in the narrative.
Ana plays the character so well that one might think she is struggling to get into the character. The struggle, however, is not hers, but that of Norma's, in trying to fit into the role of Marilyn Monroe. She often remarks that she is not Marilyn, and she is afraid that people would find that out at some point.
There is a constant sense of dissociation associated (sorry, couldn't resist) with her character. While it makes sense that Norma had that dissociation from Marilyn, sometimes it felt that even when she was Norma, she was not completely comfortable. However, when you think about it, you would realize that Norma never really knew how to be comfortable and relaxed. Her mother always kept her on her toes growing up. Things did not change much when Norma was taken away from her mother. She had always lived with the combined burden of helplessness, vulnerability, and hyper-anxiety.
I wondered, if her life was so traumatic that there was never a genuine moment of happiness, but then I concluded that maybe the way she perceived happiness was not the same as how others did. Or maybe the makers just did not want to explore the lighter side of her life.
In his memoir 'The Other Side Of Me', Sidney Sheldon mentions Marilyn's death, and mentions how it made him think about his own mental state. He also mentions that she was diagnosed with Manic Depression, as it was called in the time. The current term would be Bipolar Disorder. However, he does speak of her as a real, live person, whereas the film somewhere failed to show us why people liked her so much. That, or maybe I just couldn't get myself to like the character much. She certainly evokes sympathy, but it beats me how she got the kind of fan following she had.
As far as I have seen Marilyn, on pictures and film trailers, she does have a confident charm about her, which was missing in the film. Ana was mostly either upset or relieved in situations, and we hardly saw her ever truly appearing like she had a say in her life. While Marilyn may or may not have had any control over life, her appearance never gave it away. Ana's rendition made Marilyn Monroe appear a bit more timid than she probably was in reality.
While the film may not have been a rewarding watch, it managed to give a sample of how it might feel like, to be Marilyn Monroe. The distressing mental state she was in was skillfully orchestrated in the film. It is definitely an experience that is going to stay with me.