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Love, Marilyn


Stars: Featuring: F. Murray Abraham, Elizabeth Banks, Adrien Brody, Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close, Hope Davis, Viola Davis, Jennifer Ehle, Ben Foster, Paul Giamatti, Jack Huston, Stephen Lang, Lindsay Lohan, Janet McTeer, Jeremy Piven, Oliver Platt, David Strathairn, Marisa Tomei, Lili Taylor, Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood, Lois Banner, George Barris, Patricia Bosworth, Sarah Churchwell, Amy Greene, Molly Haskell, Jay Kanter, Richard Meryman, Thomas Schatz, Donald Spoto

Director: Liz Garbus

Yet another biography of Marilyn Monroe, probably the most exploited sound cinema star, especially after her death. That said, director Liz Garbus’ biopic has the creative advantage of being ‘inspired’ by access to Monroe’s “never-before-seen personal papers, diaries and letters” (her spelling and grammar can be glimpsed as truly atrocious, her comments considerably less so).

Garbus’ approach is both interesting and irksome.

She uses an interesting if sometimes over self-conscious gallery of actresses to speak aloud Monroe’s jottings while various actors speak for others involved in her fraught life, intermixed with well-chosen newsreel and television footage and decorated with a fascinating selection of stills as well as to-camera comments from those in her life. (In this respect Laurence Olivier comes across as unrelentingly bitchy speaking of his experiences as director and costar of The Prince and the Showgirl only to have Garbus match his comments with critics commenting on the sheer awfulness of his performance in the film. Similarly I felt Arthur Miller, whose marriage to Marilyn is shown as it disintegrates, was unnecessarily snide about his relationship as an intellectual prince to her as a celluloid showgirl).

Garbus’ film is patently pro-Marilyn but never cloying and makes an excellent addition to the post-mortem Monroe hagiography. (Surprisingly, apart from Monroe’s inevitable singing of ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ John F Kennedy, no mention is made of her well-documented but less public assignations with the Kennedys).

Indeed, apart from lingering over the naked colour pin-up photograph that catapulted Monroe to notoriety and stardom, Garbus clearly sets out to venerate her subject and frequently succeeds but happily without tedium, bolstered by a once-in-a-lifetime cast of Hollywood figures, living and dead, and a fascinating variety of ‘ordinary’ contributors.

For me, Love, Marilyn really hit the spot with 20th Century Fox’s wonderfully cynical, clearly written, patently posed and rehearsed sequence in which the studio’s legendary casting maven Ben Lyon is seen sitting at his desk and, on being told Monroe is outside hoping to see him, states benignly while patently lying through his teeth that nobody needs an appointment to see so powerful a person.

Now THAT’S Show Business!

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour.
107 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 13 Oct 2013