Monday, October 31, 2022


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, Xavier Samuel, Evan Williams, Dan Butler, Lily Fisher, Toby Huss, Scoot McNairy, Ned Bellamy, Sara Paxton, Caspar Phillipson
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review
Writer/director Andrew Dominik is back, following a long hiatus since his previous feature, "Killing Them Softly" (in the interim he did direct some episodes of the series "Mindhunter"). His new feature is an adaptation of the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, and follows the life of big screen icon Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Baker. We witness her humble beginnings with her mother, and her mother's mental health issues which have a profound impact on Norma Jeane's upbringing. Her mom also informs her that her dad is someone well known in the entertainment industry, and that he is absent largely because of her. After a dramatic episode which lands her in a mental institution, Norma Jeane finds herself alone, and is dropped off in a state institution. A few years later we witness her progressive success as a model, and her first dabbles in entering the movie business, already under the moniker of Marilyn Monroe. As she navigates these first interactions in the business, further trauma is inflicted upon her, but she eventually starts a relationship with both Cass and Eddy (the sons of Charles Chaplin and Edward G. Robinson). That relationship results in an unexpected pregnancy, which she terminates much to her despair. After that situation, she embarks on a few additional relationships with more well known men, namely Joe DiMaggio, who is somehow controlling and brutal to her, and the writer Arthur Miller, with whom she has a semblance of domestic bliss, until another unexpected miscarriage occurs. Around this time her own relationship with the Marilyn Monroe persona starts to create conflicts within her and with those around her. 
Andrew Dominik had this film in the works for quite sometime, and its leading lady changed throughout the years, as the film languished in development. It was finally scooped by Netflix, which also gave it a wide release in its platform. Marilyn Monroe's life and career is at this point a subject that has been covered by so many films, plays, and books, that what this film unveils in terms of content isn't necessarily something new. However what is interesting about Andrew Dominik is the point of view and the angle with which he approaches this narrative. He mostly anchors this story on the fact that Norma Jeane/Marilyn is somewhat of a lost person, always waiting for her father figure to present himself and provide the stability and support she never had growing up. As she looks for that in the men she has relationships with, she invariably gets manipulated and later on as she makes her way in Hollywood, she gets chewed up by a system that is vicious towards women. It's an interesting angle, but one that is repetitive and constantly hammered throughout the whole duration of the feature, capturing Marilyn Monroe/Norma Jeane as someone perpetually at the brink of a dramatic collapse. And while the drama and emotional strain of course makes for compelling viewership, it also reduces her persona to a very narrow collection of traits and complexity is also flattened. Independently of the content, Andrew Dominik manages to bring his strong point of view, both stylistically, but also from the work with his actors, all of which is quite strong. Ana de Armas is fantastic as Marilyn, and has great support from Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Julianne Nicholson, Dan Butler and Toby Huss. The cinematography from Chayse Irvin is stunning as is the score from Warren Ellis and Nick Cave. While not necessarily as solid as his previous features, it's nonetheless worth watching.