The most interesting part of the new Netflix Marilyn Monroe pic Blonde, for me, is the representation of a very specific kind of Hollywood rot. We do not at first appreciate very much about the two men with whom a young Marilyn Monroe, played by Ana de Armas, begins a romantic affair. We know they are two faces in a Hollywood acting class. We know they are bookends of a sort — blandly handsome, interchangeable, good casting on the part of writer/director Andrew Dominik, who in other ways delivers a project that, in the words of...

The most interesting part of the new Netflix Marilyn Monroe pic Blonde, for me, is the representation of a very specific kind of Hollywood rot. We do not at first appreciate very much about the two men with whom a young Marilyn Monroe, played by Ana de Armas, begins a romantic affair. We know they are two faces in a Hollywood acting class. We know they are bookends of a sort — blandly handsome, interchangeable, good casting on the part of writer/director Andrew Dominik, who in other ways delivers a project that, in the words of a friend, “looks like a very expensive student film.” We know that in one of Marilyn’s many chiaroscuro-lit moments, the men present the sort of heroism a woman in extremis wants: to be held, to be danced close-to, to have the hand cupped around your hip, in your hair, transmitting the message that whatever has come before, whatever shames and fears, right now, you are safe.

The men’s next immediate ministrations may not have the later crudity of JFK sticking his cock in Marilyn’s mouth, no, what they have can offer, for a time, looks very much like love. It is a kind of love, what can pass for currency anywhere but, when come by honestly, such as it is, in Hollywood, can never leave of the system, is an irreducible part of the system, as I have written elsewhere, the town’s “sine qua non is illusion… sustained by a hunger for fame, transformation; flight. Giving up on the illusion is an existential as well as civic betrayal: if you give up, you must go home.”

But what if you are home? As are Charlie Chaplin Jr. and Edward G. Robinson Jr., the louche sons of Hollywood royalty and Marilyn’s inamorata. Beneath their 1990s Calvin Klein stylings (don’t ask) and lazy pansexual knowingness we might expect to find decadence, and we do. Other than nights spent drinking at Musso & Frank and driving down Hollywood Blvd. in magnificent cars, the men do little but fuck and lounge, all little cat-smiles and unctuosities.

Of course they need to feed on a host and Marilyn is perfect. She has gorgeous tits, gorgeous eyes, she is an open maw of trust, into which the men snake their needs, the kind that might deposit sperm into her wonderful hair (whoever did the hair deserves an Oscar), into her cunt, but which in fact works as a suction, trying to locate and suck out her soul, their sickness seeking its antidote.

This is not their fault. Their DNA is that of Hollywood, and instead of taking the hard road, the men park their no doubt comely rears in the Musso & Frank booth, in the magnificent car, they learn to say the right words and then, at first opportunity, they sell you out, their handsome faces so very punchable (DiMaggio, alas, hits Marilyn instead), their perfect hair just so.

But let me ask you a question: for how long is this currency fresh? Where do these men go from here? I have not looked up their actual bios so I will guess: car crash, alcoholism, destitution. None of this, as they see it, will be their fault. They were, as they told Marilyn, cursed to be juniors.

There are alternate endings. They might have been become, or stayed, roommates somewhere on Fountain Avenue into their fifties, when one offed the other. They may have found sanctuary in Palm Springs and desiccated early. They may — and this is a long shot — have found love, which would have been killing to the one left behind, who would, until the end, have made up increasingly fabulous and nasty stories about his former lover, about Marilyn, stories repeated in bars to increasingly younger people, who would wonder, and in not very much time, who is Edward G. Robinson?

My friend last night said he thinks of Marilyn Monroe as the quintessential star story — corn-fed, coming to Hollywood, living the dream and the nightmare — and that we will not see her likes again. I’m not sure. She’s here now isn’t she? Still providing sustenance, a font into which we dip of fingers, our needs and curiosities keeping her, we imagine, ever-wet.

This article was originally published on Nancy Rommelmann’s Substack.