Ana de Armas is a beautiful bombshell on this cover. It’s extremely arresting, and sexy without being overly revealing. The undone bed in the background is setting the tone; she looks like a retro flight attendant on a romp between routes. It’s a gorgeous photo of her, and of course they were going to tap into that energy to promote Blonde, which got pushed for more than a year while Netflix and the director grappled with the rating and the final cut. Ana talks about that wait a bit in the very lengthy article, plus the enormous amount of work that went into nailing Marilyn. Chris Evans guest-stars as Impressed Co-Worker. And Ben Affleck appears only obliquely, as part of a discussion of tabloid fascination with personal lives. I can’t help it; I wasn’t totally convinced by this:
“I have never been someone that wants any attention that’s not about my work,” she says. “So when the attention is not about my work, it is upsetting, and it feels disrespectful, and it feels inappropriate, and it feels dangerous and unsafe. But, especially in this country, I don’t know how you can find protection. I don’t know how you can stop that from happening, other than leaving.”
She’s not wrong about some of that. But: You cannot tell me these people, in that moment, were angry about getting attention for their relationship. Half of their The Way We Were slideshow feels like it was for the photographers’ benefit. It is VERY possible that it got old fast; this honestly might be a situation where she didn’t see the harm in the paparazzi stuff until she learned how consuming it becomes, and during a pandemic, they were the only game in town. But it DID feel like a game they knowingly played.
I am very, very curious whether Blonde will get the Oscar attention that it wants, largely because the Oscars do not have a history of nominating NC-17 movies (nor movies in which a CGI fetus has lines). Michelle Williams scored a Best Actress nod for Blue Valentine, but only after they got the movie’s rating knocked down to an R. Midnight Cowboy and A Clockwork Orange were both X-rated in the early ’70s, which preceded NC-17 and was not considered as harsh, and both were downgraded to an R rating once that was invented. Last Tango in Paris, which remains NC-17 today, is the only such movie to get nods, for Marlon Brando’s performance and Bernardo Bertalucci’s direction — both of which were later revealed to involve actual on-camera abuse of the actress Maria Schneider. So, not a glorious history, is what I’m saying. (That New Yorker article makes me sick.) But everyone does seem united that Ana de Armas is great in it. Maybe she’ll make history even if the movie doesn’t.
The movie itself sounds deeply weird. “Terrifying” perhaps, but “steamy” seems like a misguidedly erotic adjective on the cover, given that Variety itself says Marilyn “explodes with anguish and suffers genuinely brutal sexual violence and degradation.” The sex and nudity are tools used to illustrate the worst, most tortured parts of its subject’s life. I’ve seen a lot of yearning on Twitter and such for a Marilyn movie that shines a light on other facets of who she was — her social activism, her brightness — rather than immortalizing her, the way they generally do, as America’s favorite tragic object. I’m not sure I have it in me to sit through a dark, wrenching, occasionally surrealist take on a woman who I bet would’ve loved to be remembered for more, but maybe I’ll do it installments. Will you?
[Photo: Marc Hom for Variety]