It was met with mixed reviews. One British newspaper called it “dull trauma porn with no idea what it’s trying to say”, while the Standard said De Armas, “captures Monroe’s sexiness and vulnerability, yet she is given frustratingly little opportunity to evoke the woman’s intelligence and humour.”
Now, director Andrew Dominik has shared his thoughts about the critical reactions, speaking at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah over the weekend.
“I was expecting critical success, and then that no one would see the film. That’s what I’m kind of used to, films that have a positive critical reaction, and then people don’t see it. Blonde was kind of the opposite, at least in America,” said Dominik.
“America was where it was worst. They hated the movie. They were angry about the film. They were outraged by the film, but a lot of people saw it, so, I was kind of surprised by it.”
Then he added: “Criticism only hurts if you agree with it. And I didn’t really agree with any of it. I think the film is great.”
Controversy had been building around the film long before it was released: people were concerned about Dominik’s portrayal of Monroe, which some factions called too sexual. Then, when its trailer was released, Cuban-Spanish actor De Armas was lambasted by some viewers for her attempt at an American accent, but the Monroe estate quickly came out in her defence.
Despite all the noise, some fans were simply delighted to see a retelling of Monroe’s life back on our screens, 11 years after Michelle Williams’ Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning performance as the star in My Week With Marilyn.
Although Monroe’s tumultuous life was cut short when she was only 36 years old, she had still packed in a 14-year career and made 29 films. Here we select some of our favourite Monroe moments in film.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) - Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
Arguably Monroe’s most famous role, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a musical comedy about a showgirl (Monroe) who is engaged to a wealthy gentleman. His father doesn’t approve of the match and so when the showgirl and her friend Dorothy go on a cruise, he hires a private detective to track their antics. In this stylish sequence, Monroe embodies everything she became famous for: she’s glamorous, aloof and oozes charisma and sex appeal. Madonna remade the scene in her 1984 music video for Material Girl.
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) - Modelling scene
Badabing, badaboom. Monroe is so much more than her figure, but that doesn’t make the moments when she flaunts it any the less iconic. In this romantic comedy, Monroe and her two friends are on a mission to bag a millionaire. They move to New York, hobnob with the city’s social elite, get in some tangles, and ponder about love. Pure fun.
Some Like It Hot (1959) - Sugar Kane
Saxophone player Joe and his friend witness a Mafia murder in Chicago and so decide to make a swift exit from the city. They disguise themselves as women and join an all-female jazz band to go under the radar, which is when they meet Monroe’s character Sugar. If this sounds bonkers enough, just wait: Joe starts to fall for Sugar, and so dresses up as a millionaire too, while his friend starts being pursued by an actual millionaire, who thinks he’s a woman. Monroe is fabulous as this incredibly smart airhead.
The Seven Year Itch (1955) - A delicious breeze
This is one of the most famous scenes in film of all time, if not the most famous. It’s also become Monroe’s most iconic outfit. So why did it make such an impact? Partly it was Monroe’s character’s response in the film. When her skirt blows up, she’s far from embarrassed, saying: “Isn’t it delicious?” Then, it was everything else: the scene took 14 takes in New York and then was reshot in California; Monroe wore two pairs of pants to make sure everything was secured; the dress was sold in 2011 for $4.6 million. Apparently, her husband Joe DiMaggio was less than impressed by the exhibitionist moment, and the rest of the film was essentially a Fifties man’s private fantasy: it’s New York in a heatwave and his wife and son have been sent off to Maine. He meets a gorgeous blonde model who has moved in upstairs...
The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) - Waltzing with Laurence Olivier
There are few better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than watching Monroe and Laurence Olivier prance around as an American performer and a royal in England in 1911. The film itself is also fun: there’s a romance, a potential coup, and Monroe, naturally, finds herself in the middle of everything.
Although everything was fabulous on screen, production was reportedy a nightmare. Monroe didn’t get on with the rest of the cast and English actress Jean Kent even went so far as to say that Monroe, “never arrived on time, never said a line the same way twice, seemed completely unable to hit her marks on the set and couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything at all without consulting her acting coach, Paula Strasberg.” Kent even claimed that costar Richard Wattis turned to drink. Is it true?
Apparently even Olivier and Monroe did not enjoy an easy relationship. In fact, he allegedly asked her to “try and be sexy”, and referred to her as a “bitch”. Oh dear.