What Makes a Biopic Great?


When Netflix biopic, Blonde opens, you are filled with a deep sense of overwhelming sadness within minutes; a man so important his name cannot be muttered and his framed image cannot be touched by his own child. When the child asks “But where is he,” it kicks off your further descent, slipping into scene after scene of suffering.

That’s Marilyn Monroe’s life… or is it? Most critics agree that the abuse was over the top and could have been handled better, and that’s without addressing the CGI fetus in the room, while others praise Ana de Armas’ ability to embody her role wholeheartedly.

Yet the question remains, what makes a good biopic? Is the actor playing the real-world persona, or the actor’s ability to get right into the skin of a character that you embody almost to the point of losing yourself? And how can they be made in a way that feels true to the life they portray?

Character Work in Biopics

Alex Gibney, an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, and executive producer behind Netflix’s How To Fix A Drug Scandal and How To Change Your Mind believes the answer is keying into the character’s essence. For him, it is not about the numerous things you capture with a character as much as it is about a singularity of purpose – the capturing of an essence. A critic said of Blonde – “Without real depth, the mature content ends up feeling exploitative… the numerous scenes of assault make Blonde uncomfortable to watch.” 

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