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Movie stars don’t get much more iconic than the original blonde bombshell herself, Marilyn Monroe. Her astonishingly photogenic face and infamous curves have been splashed across prints, paintings and all amount of paraphernalia since her rise to fame in the 1950s.
Her character, equally, has been the subject of numerous documentaries and dramatisations, such as 2011’s My Week with Marilyn, as a slew of writers and directors try to get underneath her flawless skin to the troubled personality within.
Love, Marilyn (2012) is director Liz Garbus’ attempt to shed new light on the Monroe story. As explained in the film’s introduction, personal documents written by Marilyn herself were recently unearthed, giving Garbus the opportunity to let us hear the tale of Marilyn’s life in her own words.
What makes this Marilyn documentary noticeable amongst the masses is – aside from this new material – the big name stars charged with bringing it to life. Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood and Lindsay Lohan, among others, stare back at us as they read Monroe’s scribbles, whilst male stars such as Paul Giamatti or Adrien Brody dramatise the writings of the men who knew her.
It is this feature which is, in my humble opinion, the undoing of this documentary. If anything, rather than adding to the audience’s perception of Monroe’s voice, the actors’ recognisable features distract from it. The real problem, however, lies in the scrappy editing – the actors jump around on badly-edged green screen with shots of Monroe’s writing swimming in the background; frequent sudden cuts and pans are jarring, taking you further from the story. In the DVD extras, Garbus explains that this dramatisation technique was a risk: an attempt to bring something new to the documentary genre. I’m not sure the risk really paid off, as it feels more like a student soliloquy exercise than a professional production.
Having said that, once you look past the distracting editing, this documentary does offer some interesting insight in to the life and career of one of Hollywood’s biggest icons. Monroe was a fascinating character and Love, Marilyn does draw you in to her complexity: the contrast between her sexy public persona and internal battles and desires. I’m not sure that this documentary adds much to the story for existing fans, but for anyone who knows no more of Monroe than her face on a poster, it will shed a great deal of light on what an intelligent and driven woman she really was.
Out in cinemas today and on DVD on 28 October.
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