There was a Norma Jean before there ever was a Marilyn
Few Hollywood stars have proved to have such a legacy as Marilyn Monroe. Not only have her films and iconic photographs lived on decades later, but several movies and documentaries have been made in an effort to decrypt the beautiful, alluring, and mysterious life of America's biggest sex symbol.
Directed by New Zealand-Australian director Andrew Dominik, Blonde is the freshest take on Marilyn Monroe's tragic rise and fall. The movie is not a traditional biopic in any sense and has been described as a fictionalized interpretation of her life, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates.
Blonde will be released on September 28, 2022, on Netflix.
Blonde has been given the rare rating of NC-17 for some sexual material. In case you didn't know, NC-17 is above the R rating at the MPA and means "No one 17 and under is admitted." This marks the first film by Netflix to be given this rating.
The teaser, released June 16, 2022, immediately focuses the camera on Marilyn. She weeps and appears to pray, or plea, for someone to come to her aid. The teaser then flashes to black-and-white and color clips of her life as a star. The brief trailer then closes on her distress in the dressing room, where the man doing her makeup assures her that "she's coming." It then becomes clear, from Marilyn's sudden change in expression, demeanor, and voice, that this woman she was begging for was not any physical person, but the Marilyn Monroe persona she has upheld for her career.
The official trailer, released July 28, 2022, more completely fleshes out this idea of Marilyn juggling two identities. Though she revels in the fame, adoration, and worship from her fans, viewers glimpse the slightest hints of unhappiness. Contrasting with clips of her joy in the spotlight are clips of her discomfort, frustration, fear, and depression. In the trailer, she admits, "Marilyn doesn't exist." This 'Marilyn' is nothing more than a show for the sex-hungry masses, and if audiences can glean anything from this trailer, it is that she grows weary and drained from her longstanding performance. She is, at the end of the day, the same Norma Jean she was before she was discovered.
Provoking awe with her spitting image of the real Marilyn Monroe is Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas. The 2015 erotic thriller Knock Knock was de Armas' first American film, and she learned her lines phonetically as she was new to the United States and not yet fluent in English. In 2016, she played Iz, the girlfriend of David Packouz (Miles Teller), in the true-crime black comedy War Dogs. She rose to prominence and became known for 2017's Blade Runner 2049, co-starring with Ryan Gosling as the A.I., Joi. Following her work on The Informer and Wasp Network, she played one of the leads in Rian Johnson's Academy Award-nominated whodunit Knives Out, where she starred alongside a massive cast including Daniel Craig and Chris Evans. She worked with Craig once again in the 2021 James Bond film No Time to Die as Paloma. She recently starred in Deep Water and The Gray Man. Aside from Blonde, her other upcoming film, Ghosted, is in post-production, where she'll reunite with Evans for a third time.
Playing Marilyn Monroe's third husband, award-winning playwright Arthur Miller, is Academy Award winner Adrien Brody. Brody played Corporal Geoffrey Fife in Terrence Malik's war film The Thin Red Line. Just four years later, he scored his Academy Award-winning role in the heartbreaking biographical WWII drama, The Pianist. Following this, he starred in M. Night Shyamalan's The Village and in Peter Jackson's King Kong. Since then Brody has starred in countless films and shows including The Darjeeling Limited, The Brothers Bloom, Splice, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Predators, Midnight in Paris, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Peaky Blinders, The French Dispatch, Succession, and Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. His upcoming projects include the whodunit See How They Run, Asteroid City, Poker Face, and the previously mentioned Ghosted, where he'll reunite with de Armas.
Bobby Cannavale is Marilyn's second husband, and New York Yankees' baseball player, Joe DiMaggio. Cannavale is known for his roles in films and shows such as The Station Agent, Ant-Man and its 2018 sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, The Irishman, Vinyl, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, I Tonya, Snakes on a Plane, Chef, Motherless Brooklyn, Homecoming, Nine Perfect Strangers, and Sing 2. Cannavale earned his first Emmy win for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for playing Vince in Will & Grace and won his second Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for playing Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire.
Julianne Nicholson is Gladys Pearl Baker, the mother of Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe. Nicholson recently won her first Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for playing the role of Lori Ross in the acclaimed HBO limited series Mare of Easttown. Her other credits include appearing in films and shows such as I Tonya, The Stranger, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, Togo, Black Mass, August: Osage County, Kinsey, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: True Crime, Boardwalk Empire, and Masters of Sex.
Filling out the ensemble of Blonde are Xavier Samuel as Charlie Chaplin Jr, Caspar Phillipson as John F. Kennedy, Toby Huss as Allan "Whitey" Snyder, Sara Paxton as Miss Flynn, David Warshofsky as Darryl F. Zanuck, and Evan Williams as Edward G. Robinson Jr. among others. Garret Dillahunt, Scoot McNairy, and Lucy DeVito have all been cast in undisclosed roles as well.
As Blonde is partly a biographical drama, the film will detail the timeline of her epic but short life. The official plot synopsis from Netflix reads:
Discover a life both known and unknown in this boldly imaginative film from Director Andrew Dominik that explores the complicated life of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. Based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde, starring Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, and Julianne Nicholson premieres on Netflix, 28 September.
Blonde will certainly explore her acting career but, perhaps more than that, her personal life and relationships. The trailers strongly indicate a narrative that will focus on Marilyn's point of view, one the public never truly got to see. This will be the fictionalized portion of the story, where Joyce Carol Oates and Andrew Dominik combined their imaginations to envision the real, raw, and honest woman beneath the act the world knew as Marilyn Monroe.
Emma Primrose is a feature writer for Collider. She admires stories in all their forms, especially film and books. IG @emmaprimrose_author
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Blonde: Release Date, Trailer, Cast, and Everything We Know So Far – Collider
There was a Norma Jean before there ever was a Marilyn