Last Updated 2 weeks Ago
The NC-17 rating at the end of the trailer for the Netflix Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde may surprise some viewers. The film is shot beautifully and appears to have an intense, dramatic tone, yet in other areas, it may be mistaken for a conventional, tragic celebrity biography. What has earned it the MPA’s strictest, adults-only rating, a first for a Netflix movie?
Andrew Dominik, an Australian filmmaker who made his mark with the 2000 crime picture Chopper and the elegiac Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford starring Brad Pitt, wrote and directed Blonde. Peers such as David Fincher, who hired him to helm numerous episodes of Mindhunter, admire Dominik’s intransigence. However, Dominik has not yet achieved commercial success and has often battled to have films produced according to his specifications.
Blonde is not a straightforward biography of Marilyn Monroe, but rather a heavily dramatized depiction of her life based on Joyce Carol Oates’s novel. Dominik has been attempting to produce it since 2010. Dominik appears to have insisted that the book’s disturbing and brutal parts be included in his film adaptation.
Blonde, starring Ana de Armas (Knives Out, No Time to Die) as Marilyn Monroe, was filmed in 2019. According to sources, its intended release date was 2021, however, Netflix pushed it out to 2022. There was no official explanation for the delay, but reports arose that Netflix objected to the film’s more extreme scenes and was considering re-editing it to avoid an NC-17 rating.
An interview that Dominik gave to Screen Daily in February 2022 eventually validated these rumors, more or less.
Dominik found it “hilarious” and incorrect that the film contained a gory sequence portraying menstruation cunnilingus. However, he did disclose that a rape scene from Oates’s novel is featured in Blonde. The MPA assigns the NC-17 classification to this scene because it contains “some sexual material.”
Dominik stated that Netflix “insisted” on hiring a new editor, Jennifer Lame (Marriage Story, Tenet), “to rein in the film’s excesses.” However, based on the rating, it appears Netflix has conceded and Dominik has been permitted to release the film in its original form. He acknowledged that Netflix had concerns about the film’s content, but applauded the streaming service for supporting its release nevertheless. “Supporting something is a lot simpler when you like it. It’s far more difficult if you don’t. He stated, “I have nothing but gratitude for Netflix.”
NC-17 classifications for films are extremely uncommon. According to the MPA’s Classification and Rating Administration website, just a handful of films in the past ten years have received the rating. Reportedly, some films, including recent releases such as Spiral, The King’s Man, and Midsommar, have been re-edited and resubmitted to the MPAA to obtain a more theater-friendly R classification.
An NC-17 designation is significantly less detrimental to Netflix than it is to traditional film studios. Although such a rating drastically restricts the distribution and marketing of a film in cinemas, it will have little effect on the streaming platform, where the homepage is the primary marketing tool for Netflix. In the past, it was not difficult to discover extreme content on Netflix, such as the wildly popular explicit, unrated erotic drama Love by Gaspar Noé. Despite this, the studio appears to have been extremely sensitive about Blonde’s rating, maybe due to the film’s strong alignment with its brand as a Netflix Original.
Speaking with Screen Daily, Dominik exhibited his typical lack of remorse. He stated that the film “wouldn’t have been made” if not for #MeToo, “because nobody was interested in that type of s*** — what it’s like to be an unloved girl, or to go through the Hollywood meat-grinder” — an apparent excuse for the film’s uncompromising depiction of Monroe’s abuse. And despite dubbing the NC-17 rating “a pile of horse manure,” Dominik welcomed it as a symbol of the film’s intransigence.
“It’s a challenging film,” he added. “If the audience does not enjoy it, that is the audience’s damn issue. It does not seek public office. It’s an NC-17 film about Marilyn Monroe, which is roughly what you desire, correct? I want to watch the Marilyn Monroe story in its NC-17 version.”