Friday, November 30, 2012

Liz Garbus' LOVE, MARILYN tries to create an iconic star of interest to the younger set

Let's see: How do we go about doing something different with perhaps the most iconic star Hollywood has yet given us? Marilyn Monroe (shown above and further below, for you youngsters who many not immediately recognize her) has been done to death so many times now that one wonders what more could possibly be said about her life, her movies, her men, her anything and everything?  Liz Garbus, shown just below, the director of the latest in a long line of attempts to explore this icon, has turned to Marilyn's "journals, papers, and poems recently discovered among the personal effects left by Lee Strasberg, legendary Director of the Actor’s Studio and the actress’s mentor and confidant," as the press release explains it.

Surprise: these musings are quite interesting, showing a Marilyn of some complexity and thoughtfulness, while providing a different kind of entryway into her life. Unfortunatley, Garbus (or someone) has had the truly terrible idea to spread these musings amongst a rather too-large group of actresses/actors who take turns reading all this and consistently highjack our attention away from the words themselves.  Oh, look -- there's Elizabeth Banks (below, who makes a pretty good stand-in for the younger Marilyn)!

Now it's Uma Thurman (below, who does a lovely job with her readings)! Oh, my -- here's Glenn Close: Is that meant to show us what MM might have become had she lived longer? About the time you see and hear Viola Davis, you'll have realized that maybe Ms Garbus is pushing for Monroe to represent "everywoman" (or at least "everyactress"). Except that she also offers us Ben Foster (two photos below), who handles the verbiage with aplomb, and does, at one point, the best vocal impression of Monroe of anyone on view.

And so it goes, with our attention repeatedly pulled up short, leaving us wondering, "Wow-- who's next?" One narrator, maybe two -- a man and a woman -- would have sufficed. But then the movie wouldn't not have been so "starry," I suppose. Much of the film is attention-holding, because Monroe's words are genuine and smart, and the organization of the documentary is relatively firm and coherent.

If the men in Monroe's life do not come across as overly sympathetic (Joe DiMaggio is too old-fashioned, jealous of her time and her fans; Arthur Miller is depicted -- even described at one point -- as pretty much of a creep; and Kennedy (the Kennedys?) are barely there.

There is some wonderful archival footage here (above and below), and some interviews worth seeing and hearing. The difficulties of working with Monroe are skirted over, however, for the purpose here is clearly to continue the late star's run as "forever icon." By the time we get to George Cukor's complaints about her non-work on that final film (quite valid, it would seem), we're already mourning her death, having watched yet another attempt at something like sainthood.

Overall, the movie -- worth seeing for those who can't get enough Monroe, or newcomers who simply want to find out stuff -- seems an odd mixture of some genuinely good material used to produce yet another glossy Hollywood con job.

Love, Marilyn, a co-production of HBO Documentaries, Canal+ and others groups, opens theatrically today -- Friday, November 30 -- at Film Forum in New York City for a two-week run, will eventually be shown, I am sure on HBO. Filmmaker Garbus will appear in person tonight, 11/30/12, at 7:50pm.

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