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Love, Marilyn – United States – Liz Garbus

September 13, 2012

For those of you who have seen and loved My Week With Marilyn starring Academy Award nominated Michelle Williams, this film is for you. For those who haven’t – what is wrong with you? Well if you have any romance in you these two movies are really worth your time. The first is a dramatized version of Colin Clark’s journal of a week spent with Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier on a film set in the UK. That film gives great insight into this tragic figure and her short but brilliant career as the archetypal Hollywood Star and sex symbol. Love, Marilyn is a documentary based on archival footage of her, interviews with all the significant people in her life and a collection of her letters, journals and other writing that has recently been discovered and published. The director had a series of contemporary actors offer their time to read and perform Monroe’s written words including all of the following: Ben Foster, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Elizabeth Banks, Uma Thurman, Jeremy Piven, Viola Davis, Adrien Brody, Lindsay Lohan, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Jennifer Ehle, Jennifer Ehle, F. Murray Abraham, Jack Huston, David Strathairn, Janet McTeer, Oliver  Plat , Lili Taylor, Stephen Lang.

It is very effective and evokes some very emotional reactions. One of the major narrators is Amy Green who was her contemporary and closest friend. Amy and her husband Milton often had Marilyn stay with them and they became confessors of a sort for her. We were lucky enough to have Amy Green at the showing to do a Q and A after the film and although she is now elderly and quite frail, she was funny and insightful about Marilyn making it a real treat for us in the audience. For those who may not see what so many others do in Marilyn a few facts. She was born to a single mother, her father leaving as soon as he found out about the pregnancy. Her mother suffered a mental breakdown and Marilyn (then named Norma Jeane Mortenson) was raised in a series of foster homes and orphanages. She survived all that to emerge with a goal of being an actress and she worked tremendously hard at it to great success. Throughout, however, she suffered from insecurity, loneliness and a feeling that she was not worthy of being loved or of loving. This comes out in the journals and letters very movingly. The persona she built and presented to the world was very much a mask but one that she built very carefully and deliberately and put on with purpose. Lee Strasberg recalled a time when he was working with her and she asked to go the powder room. He commented that he should have had a good book with him because her trips to the powder room could take “as long as an elephant’s pregnancy”. Nonetheless about 20 minutes later, when she had not returned, he went and knocked on the ladies room door and she told him to come in. He found her staring at her image in the mirror and when he asked her what she was looking at, she pointed at the mirror and responded, “I’m looking at her.”

The film is full of anecdotes like this that provide insight into an amazing woman who because of her early and tragic death has become an icon that many of her contemporaries like Liz Taylor never achieved. I highly recommend this movie to all.

Love, Marilyn

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