Love, Marilyn (15)
Like Noel Coward and Bruce Lee, Marilyn Monroe was an entirely self-made creation.
The tragic building blocks that took her to the top of the movie hit parade included child abuse, desertion, the casting couch, sadistic drama coaches, two ill-chosen husbands, drink, drugs and an apparent inability to bear children.
The many books on her life and premature death – more than 1,000 of them according to this documentary – have trawled through such details for the last five decades. Yet seemingly few have used Monroe’s own words – her diaries, notes and memos – in an attempt to present the world as she saw it.
It must be almost impossible to view Monroe objectively today. Thus Love, Marilyn is a subjective take on the tragic icon’s 37 years with her words given life by a star-studded array of on-screen narrators.
Director Liz Garbus makes a startling statement by opting for famous faces to present Monroe’s words to camera. The line-up includes Paul Giamatti, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Adrien Brody and Uma Thurman.
And the hammered-home message is that beneath the public image of the ditzy peroxide blonde was a woman who worked night and day to become a movie star and who yearned for validation as a deeper thinker than that image allowed.
It’s a simplistic approach and a not particularly effective one. The constant parade of celebrities, each given lines from Monroe’s scribblings or relevant to a raft of observers that includes directors, studio chiefs and co-stars, is actually a distraction.
Yet Monroe herself – via her own tortured thoughts on men, marriage, movies, madness and mortality – emerges as a woman desperate to escape from the impression she invented and from bad relationships, poor films, dictatorial bosses and the legacy of her mother’s mental instability.
This, then, is the film’s strength. It makes for poignant, plaintive listening and lays bare the soul of a troubled woman for whom life was simply overwhelming. Having created “Marilyn Monroe” this fragile woman found no respite from her. In life or in death.
On limited release.
Star rating: ***