“Blonde,” the highly touted film, loosely based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel of a character modeled on the life of Marilyn Monroe, began streaming in September on Netflix.
The streaming giant had high hopes for the film and gave it a big publicity push, unveiling it during the prestigious Venice Film Festival, where it received a 14-minute standing ovation early in September.
The film starred Cuban-born actress Ana De Armas, who was said to have received more than nine months of dialogue coaching trying to tame her accent and master the unique Monroe purr. She was praised for her transformation into the star, who died in 1962. Monroe converted to Judaism before her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller, six years before.
There have been numerous accounts of Monroe’s death. Some have claimed she was murdered, and that her death was linked to the president at the time, John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, who was attorney general then. There were allegations that the two men had affairs with the actress and had arranged her murder. A slickly produced documentary about her last days was also produced by Netflix and began streaming in April. It was based on a series of 650 taped interviews that Anthony Summers had done for his 1985 book about the screen legend.
But if the documentary was at least anchored in some version of what was offered as reality, “Blonde” was more loosely tethered. It received a rare NC-17 rating, which meant that no one under 18 could buy a ticket for it. There was considerable nudity in the film that claimed to be an exploration of Monroe’s long history of sexual abuse.
Many reviewers complained that the film exploited her life. Others said that sitting after through the nearly three-hour film, they felt like they needed a shower.
The critical reception of the film was a major disappointment for director Andrew Dominik, who had devoted more than a decade to the film’s development.
He claimed, in remarks reported earlier this month that American audiences “hated the movie” because it presented Monroe as someone who was exploited all her life.
“We’re living in a time where it’s important to present women as empowered, and they want to reinvent Marilyn Monroe as an empowered woman. That’s what they want to see,” Dominik told the Hollywood Reporter. “And if you’re not showing them that, it upsets them.”
And although no box office numbers were reported and Netflix did not release its viewing numbers, Dominik said that tens of millions had watched the film.