Marilyn Monroe’s mystique endures 50 years after her death.
LOVE, MARILYN (Liz Garbus). 107 minutes. Opens Friday (April 5). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Half a century after her death, there's no stopping our fascination with Marilyn Monroe, whose legend has inspired more than a 1,000 books, dozens of movies and even a fictional musical on the TV show Smash.
Now comes Liz Garbus's documentary, loosely based on the recent discovery of two boxes of her journal entries, letters and poems, published in the 2010 book Fragments. Garbus hits the usual points in the star's life and career: troubled childhood in and out of orphanages, rise to fame in Hollywood, retreat and study in New York, return to the screen, failed marriages to two prominent men, crippling insecurity and early, mysterious death.
But Garbus has padded her high-end A&E-style bio with readings from the journals - and documents by other well-known figures (Capote, Steinem, Mailer) - by a who's who of the acting world. This conceit is gimmicky at times - is that really Lindsay Lohan reading off the prompter? Lili Taylor's recitation of a chicken recipe is a low point.
But there's some great archival footage - including sessions in New York's famed Actor's Studio - and candid new interviews with Monroe's close friends, like Amy Greene.
Some of the writings reveal a woman who was more complex than her public persona would suggest. Most affecting is Marisa Tomei's heart-stopping reading of a prescient passage where the star considers jumping off a bridge, then changes her mind because she finds all bridges beautiful.
And of course Monroe's enduring magic comes through in every clip and photo.