Friday, October 7, 2011

Blonde (2001)

While pursuing my English undergraduate degree, I read Joyce Carol Oates' short story "Three Girls." The idea of spotting Marilyn Monroe perusing a used bookstore, clad in menswear, enchanted me. I never forgot the story, and respected Oates' interpretation of a generally oversimplified woman. This oversimplification became more clear to me after I read Marilyn's autobiography, and the much-publisized Fragments earlier this year. Like "Three Girls," these books transformed Marilyn from the "sex-symbol," and the "cute blonde," to someone I wanted to have coffee and discuss Michael Chekhov with. Or we could explicate poetry. I don't know. I just wanted inside her brain. This remains one reason "Three Girls" still counts as my favorite short story.

However, Oates did not leave Marilyn there. She also wrote a novel, Blonde, which I have not read. It seems to further chronicle Oates' interpretation of Marilyn. While not a biography, I have read it attempts to "get inside" Norma Jean Baker, even as she continues the transformation into Marilyn Monroe.  This novel also became a miniseries in 2001, starring Poppy Montgomery as Norma Jean Baker, Patricia Richardson as her mother, Ann-Margret, and Patrick Dempsey. I do not know if many would consider it an "excellent" film, but I appreciate it.

The film begins with a blonde woman in a red dress sprawled across an empty beach, the waves lapping against her. Viewers learn later she is, in fact, "washed up" at this point. But just at that moment, the contrast of her peroxide hair against the dull sand colors caught my attention. She seems so beautiful and out of place. I love visuals like this.

Montgomery fills the image. I find it scary how much she looks and talks like Marilyn. This film excludes scenes of her blown-up skirt during The Seven Year Itch, and instead shows her seeking affection from various characters: her mother (Richardson was also great), Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, and Patrick Dempsey's bizarre, friend-like, character. I like these tender moments. I like seeing Marilyn in a cardigan, black pants, and ballet flats. I like her desperation for motherhood.

Just ... like, and love.

Blonde makes me more curious about My Week with Marilyn, which will release soon. Michelle Williams will probably give a decent performance, but now, I almost do not want a more biographical approach.


1 comment:

Shybiker said...

I find your fascination with Marilyn to be fascinating in itself. I wonder what's behind that: adulation? identification? respect?

I don't mean to be nosy, it's just that Monroe is an icon and people usually don't view icons as real people; rather, they project themselves onto that person. Plus, what Monroe is iconic for (conventional sex appeal) differs from what appears to be your interest in her. Your comments about her acting-ability, her intelligence, all deviate from most people's relation to MM. Fascinating...