Blonde – ‘exploitative’ or ‘phenomenal’? What’s been said about the divisive Marilyn Monroe biopic

In May, Andrew Dominik – the director of Blonde, Netflix’s forthcoming biopic of Marilyn Monroe – predicted that the film would “offend everyone”.

A few months on, and he has been proven right.

The film isn’t even out yet (it’s scheduled for release on Netflix on 28 September) but the trailer, featuring No Time to Die and Knives Out star Ana de Armas as the late screen icon, has already divided opinion.

The controversy is, in part, due to the fact that Blonde is the first film produced by Netflix to carry the rarely awarded American NC-17 rating, the US equivalent of an 18 certificate, for its sexual content. Some fans are worried the film might be exploitative.

Here’s a rundown of what people have had to say about the project, from high praise to heavy criticism…

Blonde director Andrew Dominik

Speaking about how Blonde was originally scheduled to come out in 2020, but was delayed due to the pandemic, Dominik said: “It’s an interesting time for Blonde to come out. If it had come out a few years ago, it would have come out right when MeToo hit and it would have been an expression of all that stuff.

“We’re in a time now, I think, where people are really uncertain about where any lines are. It’s a film that definitely has a morality about it. But it swims in very ambiguous waters because I don’t think it will be as cut-and-dried as people want to see it.

“There’s something in it to offend everyone.”

He has also been quoted as saying: “If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the f***ing audience’s problem. [The film is] not running for public office.”

Ana de Armas in ‘Blonde’ (Netflix)
Ana de Armas in ‘Blonde’ (Netflix)

Adrien Brody (who stars as Arthur Miller, the revered playwright and husband of Monroe) in the film, similarly predicted that there would be “some controversy” surrounding the film’s release.

Blonde author Joyce Carol Oates

The film is an adaptation of a 2000 biographical fiction novel, written by Oates.

Speaking in July after seeing the film, Oates appeared to give the movie her seal of approval.

“Andrew Dominik is a very brilliant director,” she said. “I think he succeeded in showing the experience of Norma Jeane Baker [Monroe’s real name] from her perspective, rather than see it from the outside, the male gaze looking at a woman.

“He immersed himself in her perspective.”

Viewers of the trailer

In July, when the trailer was released, many fans were critical.

“Contacting Marilyn Monroe via ouija board to tell her that my take on the Blonde trailer is the only one with her best interests at heart,” tweeted one person.

Another wrote: “That Blonde trailer gave me ‘collage of Marilyn’s pop culture moments’ vibes. It doesn’t read like a biography, more like an exploitation film masquerading as one.”

Some people also posted comments about De Armas – who is Cuban-Spanish – and her accent in the trailer.

“I think Ana de Armas is a fantastic actress and looks great as Marilyn BUT I still hear her accent in the Blonde trailer and it’s taking her out of character for me,” tweeted one.

Adrien Brody and Ana de Armas in ‘Blonde’ (Netflix)
Adrien Brody and Ana de Armas in ‘Blonde’ (Netflix)

Marilyn Monroe’s estate

Marilyn Monroe’s estate defended De Armas’s casting. In a statement, the estate said that “any actor that steps into that role knows they have big shoes to fill”.

Marc Rosen, president of entertainment at Authentic Brands Group, which owns the Marilyn Monroe Estate, said: “Marilyn Monroe is a singular Hollywood and pop culture icon that transcends generations and history.

“Based on the trailer alone, it looks like Ana was a great casting choice as she captures Marilyn’s glamour, humanity and vulnerability. We can’t wait to see the film in its entirety!”

De Armas has previously said it took her nine months to learn how to speak like Monroe, calling the process a “big torture” and “so exhausting”.

On whether she nailed the voice, De Armas said: “I tried! It only took me nine months of dialect coaching, and practising, and some ADR sessions [rerecording dialogue after filming]. It was a big torture, so exhausting. My brain was fried.”

Read our rundown of the 12 worst fake accents in film here.

Blonde producer Brad Pitt

Pitt, who produced the movie through his Plan B production banner, spoke out in support of De Armas.

“She is phenomenal in it,” he said. “That’s a tough dress to fill. It was 10 years in the making. It wasn’t until we found Ana that we could get it across the finish line.”