Love, Marilyn (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/10/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

Skilfully constructed, impeccably researched and engagingly presented documentary that presents a well-rounded view of the Marilyn mystique, though it's fair to say that there's little in the way of new revelations, particularly if you're already a die-hard Marilyn fan.

What's it all about?
Directed by Liz Garbus, Love, Marilyn is a documentary that came about as the result of the recent discovery of a cache of Marilyn Monroe's diaries, letters, poetry and general notes in the archives of her revered acting coach Lee Strasberg. An impressively diverse range of actresses (including Glenn Close, Ellen Burstyn, Uma Thurman, Viola Davis, Lindsay Lohan, Marisa Tomei and Jennifer Ehle) take turns reading from the material, which covers her early home life, her career and her marriages.

Similarly, Garbus casts a number of actors and other actresses to read excerpts from some of the more famous writings about Marilyn, so Ben Foster plays Norman Mailer, Jeremy Piven plays Elia Kazan, Paul Giamatti plays George Cukor, Adrien Brody plays Truman Capote, Hope Davis plays Gloria Steinem and so on. These are intercut with archive footage and talking head contributions from Marilyn's friends and acquaintances as well as film critics and cultural commentators.

The Good
Casting multiple, intriguingly diverse actresses to read Marilyn's diaries and letters is an inspired decision that pays off beautifully, clearly illustrating both her universal appeal and the various different sides to her persona. Stand-outs include Ellen Burstyn, Glenn Close and the UK's very own Jennifer Ehle, but it's fascinating to see each actress interpret the material in their own ways – e.g. some attempt impressions, with varying degrees of success, while some approach it as if giving a reading. (It's also impossible to watch Close and Burstyn without the poignant reminder that Marilyn never got to reach their age).

The film is skilfully edited throughout, so that the readings often overlap, with different actresses reading the same piece. On top of that, there are some extremely entertaining readings from the non-Marilyn actors – e.g. Ben Foster is an absolute delight as Norman Mailer, while Paul Giamatti is very funny as a highly frustrated George Cukor – and the film is packed with a wealth of interesting, rarely-seen archive material alongside the more predictable inclusions such as the Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend clip.

The Great
Though it's fair to say that there is nothing here that will be particularly new to die-hard Marilyn fans (the film is light on revelations and steers well clear of anything controversial such as her affair with JFK), it does a good job of exploring the continuing appeal of her persona and it also shows her as someone who was highly self-aware, fiercely in control of both her image (her relationship with photographer Milton Greene is highly illuminating) and her career and continually striving for self-improvement. Her poetry is surprisingly good too.

Worth seeing?
Love, Marilyn is a fascinating, entertaining and well made documentary that's well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 14/12/2017 19:08

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