Oh, no. Not another Marilyn Monroe documentary/Audrey Hepburn biography/Marvel Heroes adaptation/Last minute goal for Man United/Plotless Downton Abbey episode. Some things we're sick of due to their inevitability and sheer volume but after Liz Garbus' engrossing Love, Marilyn I can delete the first one from the list. It completes a loose trilogy of sorts for the director who is drawn once again to a troubled psyche like she was in Bobby Fischer Versus The World and There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane.
Working from a script culled from letters, diaries, biographies, and telegrams, Jennifer Ehle, Viola Davis, Uma Thurman, Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood and even Lindsay Lohan bring warmth to Monroe's private, sometimes poetic, correspondences with their sincere narrations. Her honesty, her insecurity, and her loneliness are all laid bare. Ben Foster reads from Norman Mailer, Paul Giamatti does his best George Cukor, and Adrien Brody thankfully does not do a Truman Capote impression.
This to-camera presentation jars at the beginning, however; the actors try too hard, like they're here to audition, to read for the part, and Garbus' tendency to have them jump about the screen like Chinese shadow puppets superimposed on the 'letters' irritates. But the perpetual montage style works, picking you up and taking you along with it.
Calling this the ultimate hagiographic documentary is to come up short: Monroe is painted as a proto-feminist, in posing nude was 'anticipating a sexual revolution... that would not have happened without Monroe,' and, oddly, is completely faultless when she refuses to return to set, driving directors batty. The pills were forced into her by her psychiatrist (played by F. Murray Abraham).
It’s the dual personality that's most striking, though. There's Norma Jean Baker, the orphan girl who dreamed of being a movie star, and there's Marilyn Monroe, a construct, a thing invented to woo the world into the theatres. 'Do you want to see me be her?' she asks a confident before stepping in front of the cameras. When Capote asked her why she was gazing into the mirror, 'I'm looking at her,' was her reply.