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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on Love, Marilyn

LoveMarilynMore than fifty years after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains one of the most infamous of Hollywood tragedies.  Even though she had a very high ambition to succeed as an actress, she fell victim to typecasting and substance abuse.  There have been countless biographies about Marilyn over the years, with the most recent example being the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn.  As such, what more can really be said about Marilyn Monroe?

Well, the HBO-produced documentary Love, Marilyn aims to tell Marilyn’s story in her own words, using recently acquired diary entries and letters.  The film features an all-star cast of talking heads, such as Elizabeth Banks, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Jennifer Ehle, Lindsay Lohan, Lili Taylor, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood, to essentially act out Marilyn’s writings in front of the camera.  The film also employs the likes of Adrien Brody, Hope Davis, Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, Stephen Lang, Jeremy Piven,  Oliver Platt, and F. Murray Abraham to narrate the observations of Marilyn’s friends and admirers, including Norman Mailer and Truman Capote.

I am going to start by saying straight out that I thought that the film had nothing much going for it other than the gimmick of gathering all these celebrities together to narrate Marilyn Monroe’s words.  The film does feature some traditional documentary elements, such as archive footage and film clips, and some actual interviews with people who personally knew Marilyn.  I have to say that I found the actual biography elements much more interesting than some famous people in front of a green screen overacting their way through Marilyn’s writings.

Some of these celebrity narrators were definitely better than others.  Evan Rachel Wood was probably the best at expressing Marilyn’s thoughts, while Marisa Tomei was the most cringe-inducing.  It was also quite sad and distracting seeing a blonde, heavily made-up Lindsay Lohan show up.  Lohan has made it no secret that she admires Marilyn Monroe and, in recent years, she has seemingly been going down the same troubled path of substance abuse (to the point where she now has trouble finding good acting jobs).

I have to say that I enjoyed some of the secondary narrators a little better than the actual Marilyn ones.  While there were a few odd casting choices (Adrien Brody narrating for Truman Capote?), some of the actors clearly had fun getting into their roles.  I really liked Oliver Platt’s single appearance as he went all out in reading an angry letter Billy Wilder wrote to, Marilyn’s then husband, Arthur Miller while filming Some Like it Hot.  In a similar fashion, Paul Giamatti excellently narrates the frustrations of George Cukor, the director of Marilyn’s unfinished final film Something’s Got to Give.  I was also very pleased to see F. Murray Abraham show up to narrate the notes of Marilyn’s psychiatrist.

While Love, Marilyn is definitely an interesting watch, it doesn’t really add much to Marilyn Monroe’s story.  The film mentions that there is a bit of debate whether or not Marilyn’s death was a suicide or accidental overdose.  However, Marilyn’s writings provide no insight to this, other than the fact that she considered herself to be quite sane when she was admitted to a psychiatric ward shortly before her death. 

In conclusion, if you don’t mind a documentary that is approximately 75% celebrities narrating in front of the camera, then Love, Marilyn might be worth a watch.

6 | WATCHABLE

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).