Netflix’s “Blonde:” A Story of Glamor, Fame, and Trauma in the Wrong Hands

Hollywood’s most iconic star never wanted fame. What then, did pop-culture revolutionaire Marilyn Monroe truly desire?

In a series of striking montages of film and photographs, Netflix’s “Blonde” seeks to answer that question, artistically portraying the tragic-yet-beautiful narrative of Marilyn Monroe’s (played by Ana de Armas) lifelong struggle with loneliness, inadequacy, and parental neglect. Behind her glamorous stage name and personality, Norma Jean—Monroe’s given name—struggles with childhood trauma and her sense of self-worth: a heartbreaking journey dealing with the dark side of fame that the film takes us through in its 166 minute runtime. Released on September 28, the high anticipation for “Blonde” did not disappoint; the movie successfully provides a thought-provoking expansion of the story behind America’s beloved star that we missed six decades ago. Caution: spoilers ahead.

Aiming to portray the stark juxtaposition between Marilyn and Norma Jean’s lives, the producers of “Blonde” used different perspectives and color schemes to create two separate worlds that revolve around one woman. For example, much of Norma Jean’s trauma—her internal struggles and strained relationship with her parents—was portrayed in muted hues with slower pacing, complemented by more melancholy musical arrangements. In contrast, the parts of the film focusing on Marilyn’s rise to global fame were characterized with vibrant colors and camera flashes shot at a faster speed.

Ana de Armas successfully encapsulated the internal struggles within Marilyn and Norma Jean’s identities with emotional facial expressions and expressive body movements. Specifically, she embodied Norma Jean’s struggle with losing two children, as well as Jean’s resentment towards her Marilyn persona throughout the film. The frequent change of costumes, makeup, and sets additionally contributed to illustrating the contrast between Armas’s warring characters. Moreover, to emphasize the influence that her childhood had on her perspective of the people around her and her life trajectory, letters from her father mark important turning points in her mental health and her career. Armas showed this impact on her character by cherishing the moments that Norma Jean was able to experience her father’s love, and the voice overs emphasized the emotional importance of those moments.

A particularly intriguing aspect of the film that helped capture the audience’s attention was how personal and meaningful each relationship Norma Jean created was to her. Armas demonstrated how difficult it was for Norma Jean to create and maintain trust in her relationships, and when those relationships broke down and she had to reconcile with her past, her struggles were directly delivered to the audience.

With each scene that progressed through the respective lives of Marilyn and Norma Jean, the consequences of their actions, and the attention Marilyn received from the public compounded upon each other, revealing the struggles that came with fame. In the end, the realization that the letters were not written by her father but one of her ex-lovers overwhelms Marilyn. The movie implies that this revelation resulted in her infamous death from drug overdose.

Overall, “Blonde” receives a 4.5/5 for its artistic portrayals of trauma and heartache. Its unique focus on Marilyn’s insecurities contrast with her glamorous public facade shows the hidden reality of mental health.