The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe (2015)

Marilyn Monroe had been dead for over fifty years when this biopic made its screen debut. Throughout that time her life had been the subject of countless biopics, leaving little room for any secrets of her short life to be revealed. What comes as a revelation is the startling performance of Kelli Garner.

 

From the frigid 16 year old Norma Jean to the iconic sex symbol of the 1950’s, Garner is so uncannily accurate in her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe that she is both delightful and, at times, painful to watch. And though she is served well by a supporting cast that includes Susan Sarandon and Emily Watson, she is undermined by the story being framed by a therapy session with a fictional psychiatrist. Pity poor Jack Noseworthy, whose role consists of asking leading questions that are designed to propel the story forward. Yet the perfunctory manner in which they are delivered only stalls proceedings.  No less than three times Garner is left with nothing more to do than pout about the fate of other characters and sigh “and then he died”.

 

Where this biopic differs from other versions is the emphasis it places on Marilyn’s relationship with her mentally ill mother. Providing a seamless transition from younger to older Gladys, real-life mother and daughter Eva Amurri Martino and Susan Sarandon depict a character whose rare moments of clarity make her scenes of madness more harrowing.

 

Thankfully she wasn’t treated by Jack Noseworthy.

cast, kelli garner, marilyn monroe, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, billy wilder
Kelli Garner
Kelli Garner

as Marilyn Monroe

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Peter Tufford Kennedy
Peter Tufford Kennedy

as Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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Michael Kash
Michael Kash

as Billy Wilder

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Barry Flatman
Barry Flatman

as Darryl F. Zanuck

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Matthew Bennett, Allan Snyder, Tony Nardi, Johnny Hyde, Neil Crone

The character of Dr. Alan DeShields is fictional.

 

Joe DiMaggio’s parents died before he started dating Marilyn Monroe.

Embeth Davidtz, Natasha Lytess, Stephen Bogaert, Peter MacNeill, Barry Flatman

Biopic's scene recreations from All About Eve (01:17) and The Seven Year Itch (03:30) are included in the clip below.

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