Love, Marilyn

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Love, Marilyn
Directed by Liz Garbus
HBO Documentary Films
November 30 through December 11, Film Forum

"Marilyn Monroe was an infinity of character and mystery that was impossible for me, or anyone else, to explore, because it was so vast. There is always more and more and more," Maurice Zolotow, one of the first (of scores) of biographers of the screen legend, once said. Fifty years after her death, the actress's corpse is still being picked over with ever-diminishing returns, as evidenced in Liz Garbus's garish, misguided documentary Love, Marilyn. As the film's structuring conceit, actresses "perform" Monroe's recently unearthed cache of letters and notes to herself (which were published two years ago as Fragments) while clips from her films or news footage of M.M. plays behind them. This histrionic ventriloquism (the worst offenders: Marisa Tomei, Uma Thurman) turns Monroe's life into The Vagina Monologues, cheapening the legend rather than illuminating her. The melodramatic vocal surrogacy also extends to Monroe's biographers—Ben Foster as Norman Mailer; Hope Davis as Gloria Steinem—and her colleagues, featuring even more incongruous pairings (Jeremy Piven reading from Elia Kazan's A Life). Amid the clamor, Garbus will occasionally include some elucidating or piquant comments by scholars and M.M. friends. But the insights are far outnumbered by the hammy din; the "more and more and more" that Zolotow spoke of here misconstrued as a license for maximalist nonsense. Melissa Anderson

 
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