Love, Marilyn review (DVD)

What more can be said about one of the greatest big-screen sex sirens of the past 100 years? Marilyn Monroe was probably the person who changed the face of the way celebrities interacted with the press; it’s now all too common to see their faces in magazines, on adverts, on your TV or doing crazy things on reality shows. But before Marilyn Monroe this very rarely happened – it was only the huge stars that got to grace the cover of a magazine. Monroe changed all that. This documentary charts her rise through the film world by looking at each movie she made and the impact it had. The documentary is interspersed with well-known actors reading excerpts from memoirs written by people who knew her during those times, as well as recently discovered personal letters and journal entries.

The insight on Monroe's films is the most entertaining aspect of this doc; it gives whole chucks of information about each film. They aren’t just tidbits, either – we are treated to full, concise tales about how the films got made and what Marilyn’s roles were like. We are also told about how she enjoyed working with some actors (such as Don Murray in Bus Stop) but hated working with others (Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot), and how that affected her confidence on the set and when she returned home. Hher home life is talked about in the time scale of the films; we briefly see and hear parts of her life with Joe DiMaggio and then the subsequent break-up. Her relationship with Arthur Miller receives more screen time and has some candid interviews with Miller around these times; it’s rather shocking to see how he wrote The Misfits for her and then made the role into the dumb blonde.

The device of actors reading memoirs and personal letters is a bit of a mixed bag, as at times it feels that they are just rehearsing lines sat about in their slacks with unkempt hair, while at other times there is real emotion from some of them as they recite some of Marilyn’s most tender moments. Close, Piven and Ehle are the most dynamic and enigmatic when it comes to their parts. It’s certainly an interesting way of presenting memoirs, but it all feels rather like an improv session.

Love, Marilyn doesn’t break any new ground in getting to the heart of who Monroe was; rather, it gives a good overview of a career that was plagued with many troubles but also many triumphs against a stereotype that should have been shed years before. The reading of memoirs is hit and miss depending on the time frame.

EXTRAS ★½ Just a nine-minute interview with the director describing how the project came about and other pretty generic questions.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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