Ana de Armas is prepared for her nude scenes in her Netflix movie Blonde to go viral on the Internet, and she’s not happy about it.
The buzzed-about Marilyn Monroe biopic carries a rare NC-17 rating for its intimate scenes, and the Cuban actress is ready for the worst.
“I know what’s going to go viral, and it’s disgusting,” de Armas told Variety in a recent article.
The No Time To Die actress added: “It’s upsetting just to think about it. I can’t control it. You can’t really control what they do and how they take things out of context.”
As for her nude scenes being extracted from the Andrew Dominick-directed movie, de Armas added: “I don’t think it gave me second thoughts; it just gave me a bad taste to think about the future of those clips.”
“I did things in this movie I would have never done for anyone else, ever,” the Knives Out star pointed out. “I did it for [Monroe], and I did it for Andrew.”
“Everyone felt a huge responsibility, and we were very aware of the side of the story we were going to tell — the story of Norma Jean, the person behind this character, Marilyn Monroe. Who was she really?”
Blonde, based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 novel, is the first Netflix movie to exceed an R-rating.
Its debut in September at the Venice Film Festival was reportedly met with an 11-minute standing ovation by the audience after the credits rolled.
Rotten Tomatoes’ critical consensus offered more divided opinions on the film, opining that “Blonde can be hard to watch as it teeters between commenting on exploitation and contributing to it, but Ana de Armas’ luminous performance makes it difficult to look away.”
While de Armas is clearly the star of the film, Adrien Brody and Bobby Cannavale play Monroe’s two husbands, The Playwright (writer Arthur Miller) and The Ex-Athlete, (Baseball star Joe DiMaggio) and Julianne Nicholson plays Norma Jeane’s mother, Gladys. The film also co-stars Sara Paxton, Xavier Samuel and Evan Williams.
Blonde is now playing in select theaters and starts streaming on Netflix beginning September 28.
‘Blonde’ review: Ana de Armas illuminates Marilyn Monroe in bleak, dragging biopic
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most visible celebrities of all time.
Her face is like a platinum blond planet — its gravity continues to draw feverish attention 60 years after her death.
And despite all of Hollywood’s attempts over the years to tell her story, the person behind the shining Marilyn image remains a somewhat unknowable figure.
“Blonde,” debuting Sept. 28 on Netflix and now playing in select theaters, promises a look behind the Marilyn curtain to some essential truth about the actor born Norma Jeane Mortenson, later known as Norma Jeane Baker.
But the film, starring Ana de Armas and written and directed by Andrew Dominik (“Killing Them Softly”), is based on the 2000 novel “Blonde” from Princeton author Joyce Carol Oates, which is a fictionalized account of Marilyn’s life.
The movie, flitting between black-and-white and color — maps out its version of Norma Jeane by pressing play on famous scenes: Marilyn as a pin-up. Marilyn with husband Joe DiMaggio. Marilyn with husband Arthur Miller. Marilyn on the subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch” (1955) — 360 degrees of white skirt blown aloft. The same outfits, angles and glances captured by flashbulbs and immortalized onscreen.
But the true tone of “Blonde” is horror. Rape on the poison “casting couch.” Leering mobs of animalistic men who look as if their gaping jaws have been digitally stretched. A shadowy male figure standing in Norma’s bedroom as she staggers in a bloody, drugged daze shortly before her death under murky circumstances.
Even this film’s ghost of Marilyn is haunted.
The Norma Jeane in “Blonde” is beset by trauma and desperation, left clinging to radical hope like a child who doesn’t know better.
De Armas delivers Monroe’s breathy voice and the ecstatic expression of her familiar face. Sometimes it seems like the true ghost of Marilyn really is in the actor’s smile, or the arch of her glamorous eyebrow.
However, the focus is not on her shine, her vitality or her sense of humor, but her dimming light — her heartbreak, pain and need.
This is a brutal movie that wants to make you feel every insult, assault, longing and dashed hope. It is not an easy watch.
At 2 hours and 40 minutes (minus end credits), “Blonde,” rated NC-17 for sexual content, is a prodigious undertaking portioned out in vignettes. An hour in, you may find yourself without much stamina to keep going.
But the film banks on our fascination with Monroe and Norma Jeane, assuming we’ll keep watching just like everyone happy to ogle Marilyn when she was alive.
Sometimes the torpid feel of the movie suits Marilyn’s doped, altered, dreamlike state. Norma is either drugged by studios to keep her from fleeing film sets or under the influence of self-medication and addiction fueled by lifelong trauma.
A mix of visual styles, beautifully rendered by cinematographer Chayse Irvin (”BlacKkKlansman”), helps to keep the film moving. Scenes embrace gauzy Old Hollywood black-and-white, like Norma’s date with Joe DiMaggio (Union City’s Bobby Cannavale), and documentary-style staging, like the facsimile of Marilyn being worked into a girdle of a swimsuit in 1953.
The jarring ring of old telephones and the voice of Norma’s “father” punctuate chapters of her life, which can seem adrift in grim flashbacks, though the movie is mostly chronological. Norma’s screams of frustration join the emerging horror soundtrack. The score, from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, provides euphoric wonder that helps lift the heaviness.
But it hardly ceases. “Blonde” starts and ends in trauma, beginning with a portrait of Norma’s formative wound.
In 1933, young Norma (Lily Fisher) lives in Los Angeles with her unstable, alcoholic mother, Gladys (a piercing Julianne Nicholson). She gives her daughter a framed photo of her supposed father for her birthday, leaving Norma in awe of a man she never met. Gladys claims he’s a big deal, under contract with a studio.
Marilyn may be an enduring fantasy, but meeting her father and finding his love is her own. This “daddy issue” is painfully apparent when she calls men “Daddy,” but also in her longing to become a mother.
The trauma of living with an abusive parent brings her there. When Gladys drives her daughter into hell — a raging fire in the Hollywood Hills — Norma wants to flee to a police officer instead of going home, where Gladys tries to drown her in a hot bath.
Flash forward, Norma is out of an orphanage and on her way to her own studio contract.
Short bursts of joy are clouded by ongoing trauma. Norma, living with the still-raw memory of her mother’s abuse, is raped by studio boss “Mr. Z” (David Warshofsky), a character based on Darryl Zanuck. Her primal scream leaves peers in her acting class taken aback — she has endless reserves of “inspiration.”
At a screen test, men laugh at the concept of Norma reading a book. Blond jokes do their job — everyone undermines her intelligence. Even Norma’s future husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Adrien Brody), aka “The Playwright,” wants to know who supplied her with ideas about his work. He never considers they might be her original thoughts.
Men in the film industry objectify Norma, but go out of their way to psychoanalyze her, too. She seems more mental patient than actor, one says. Performers like Norma are drawn to acting because it gives them someone to be, another charges.
“Where does dreaming end and madness begin?” Norma asks.
She is used and abused, and everything she holds dear is summarily shredded and trashed.
“Am I meat to be delivered?” she asks in one particularly harrowing scene, as secret service agents for President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson) — ”The President” — drag a hungover Norma off a plane to a hotel room in 1962. They won’t even let her attempt to walk on her own.
“Is that what this is?” Norma asks. “Room service?”
To the Kennedy of “Blonde,” she is little more than a body. After a violent sexual encounter with the president, she loses time and wakes up in pain, the implication being she was raped.
The first mention of Marilyn as “meat” arrives in an accusation from DiMaggio, dubbed “The Ex-Athlete.” He proposes marriage by saying he wants to protect Norma, then proceeds to pummel her because of her (preexisting) Hollywood image as a sex object. When her skirt flies up in slo-mo over that New York subway grate, he’s in the crowd, deeply unamused. Her body offends him so much in the sight of other men, he feels he must destroy it.
How anyone expected Norma to survive — least of all her, herself — becomes the real question.
“Isn’t all love based on delusion?” Norma asks.
She tries to survive in Hollywood by filling every inch of herself with the delusion that is Marilyn, the one people love. Visiting her mother at a mental hospital, she brings magazines and photos to show her growing career.
“I guess there isn’t any Norma Jeane, is there?” she tells Gladys.
Norma also seems to disappear in her relationships with men. Weary of playing the onscreen tease, of always being the joke, she wants to study in New York to become a serious actor. But sensing DiMaggio isn’t big on that particular life path, she switches gears to talk about her wishes for motherhood. She finds more of a connection with Miller, but her trauma and addiction come between them.
“Don’t make me go back,” a terrified Norma says, speaking of Monroe. “I never wanna be her again.”
Earlier in her career, she forms a trio with Charles “Cass” Chaplin Jr. (Xavier Samuel) and Edward G. Robinson Jr. (Evan Williams), two men with floppy haircuts who look uncannily similar.
They have daddy complexes, too. The playboys can’t escape their famous fathers’ shadows, while Norma’s remains elusive. Norma, closest with Cass, believes the pair actually see her, not Marilyn. They laugh when the media labels her a “sexpot.”
But as Norma becomes pregnant as a result of their relationship, her starry-eyed dreams of motherhood fizzle. She chooses her career and has an abortion.
More than once, “Blonde” shows us a view from Norma’s vagina during abortions. The first time, she appears to change her mind but is made to go through with the procedure. The second time, she’s in such a haze, it seems like she doesn’t even know she’s there. Men in suits, men in scrubs — they intrude and police her body.
An especially cringeworthy scene is one where Norma’s CGI fetus talks to her in a child’s voice.
This is both unsettling and kooky. The fetus insists it is the same one previously aborted, even though it’s obviously not — Norma later miscarries after a fall.
There’s a lot of gesturing toward the notion that Norma is the baby she can’t have, the child lost. She dreams of rescuing an infant from a drawer in a burning house, the same drawer where she slept as a baby.
Uninterrupted anguish consumes all. So it’s a small relief when Norma stands her ground.
In a call with her rep, she insists on hearing Jane Russell’s requested payday for “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953).
He relents: $100,000.
Marilyn, her co-star — the blond — would make a grand total of $5,000.
“F— Marilyn,” Norma tells him. “She’s not here.”