When I wrote my book about films shot in the state, I avoided a title like The Nevada Movie Book instead using the subtitle Icons on Screen in Nevada and calling it Elvis, Marilyn, and the Space Aliens. This cashes in on the realization that everyone knows which Marilyn I mean—the blonde who made her last feature in Reno. Using the title Blonde, screenwriter/slash/director Andrew Dominik feels no need to specify which one he refers to in putting the novel by Joyce Carol Oates on screen. One blonde, one bombshell, one icon, one Marilyn Monroe.
And like moths drawn to flames, millions of us watch the project, perhaps to learn something historical about the woman, possibly because an N-C 17 rating promises nudity and sex, or even to appreciate a fine well-publicized performance by Ana de Armas. Starting backwards, de Armas delivers as promised. She goes beyond mannerisms and imitation to hit the emotional notes of a woman whose glorious public success never meets her private needs. The rating also delivers, not just with naked bodies but with deliberately shocking scenes that take unusual perspectives of rape and abortion.
But when it comes to learning about the woman, the key remains realizing that the story springs from a novel using the word “re-imagining.” Fiction can tell truth, and much of the story at least springs from elements of fact and believability. However, other parts prove surrealistic, perhaps hallucinations or simply made up. Slow, arty, and full of salacious segments, the movie mixes its highly watchable aspects with the uncomfortable sense of rolling in slime.