The new HBO documentary created in 2012 showcases A List Celebrities, Novelists, Professors reading the personal letters of Marilyn Monroe, an attempt to understand the complexity and neurosis of one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century.
Weaving through the early years and into the Hollywood years of Marilyn, Each actor takes the role of a person of significant role in her life, Ben Foster as Norman Mailer takes the lead as narrator, Jeremy Piven as Elia Kazan, Marissa Tomei, Viola Davis Uma Thurman, Elizabeth Banks among others take on the voice of Marilyn reading her diary, Biographers also join in the conversation of what made her tick as a person, the actress and the little girl who spent her early years in the orphanage.
Marilyn's insecurities are evident, she wants to be seen as more than just the dumb blonde, she wanted to be taken seriously as a person and her marriage to Joe DiMaggio didn't enhance that, he wanted a housewife and she wanted her career, eventually that's a part of the reason she divorces him and immediately resumes the limelight she desperately wants but is so afraid of it. She took the misconceptions and manipulated when she needed to.
Cutting away to a specific time period in Marilyn's life which is the Actors Studio Days through her eventual death, which is the last 10 years and the biggest movies of her career, the highs and lows especially over that final year of her life. The highlights included:
Marilyn movies were generating millions of dollars but she was still on a basic studio payment, a holdout for a bigger salary increases forces Marilyn to go on suspension but instead of lamenting over it, she takes off for New York to study at the Actors Studio and creates her own production company to contribute better scripts of herself and to branch out instead of being type- cast, to become fulfilled as a woman and actress.
Using Lee Strasberg's method which uses sense memories was difficult because Marilyn didn't want to relive her childhood even with the help of therapists, using her vulnerability and taking her to the places in her childhood Marilyn would have like to have forgotten. He became the father she had never had and was the few people to build up her confidences. She wants so much for him to love her more but his eventual disappointment in her behavior and mind is what will lead her back to California.
The first movie back on the Studio after the Lee Strasberg disaster is the dramatic "Bus Stop" by William Inge, this movie gives Marilyn back her edge and she becomes on top of the world, she is working her way through the issues of the past and falls in love again with Arthur Miller.
The courtship of Marilyn and Arthur is explored primarily through the press conference in which he announces his engagement to them before he told her and the reaction she had was understandably upset, a fatal accident involving the press a week before their wedding gives Marilyn pause, after their marriage, Arthur would say as much as he loved her, he wasn't prepared for the downward spiral that would happen soon after.
During the Miller Period, She was filming with Lawrence Olivier who believed that she was upstaging him and took it as a sabotage, he would purposely mess with her mind and she in term would delay filming.
Returning back to the Marriage of Arthur Miller and Marilyn, As much as he tried to love her, he didn't understand her and she would work herself into hysterics trying to get him to understand her. This is when she would turn heavily to pills and insomnia took over.
Going next onto the problematic set of Some Like It Hot, a classic that nearly killed Director Billy Wilder who's correspondence with Arthur is told through Oliver Platt and David Strathairn who hilariously tells of Marilyn's antics on the set including when she told an assistant director to drop dead.
Starring in the Misfits, which would be Clarke Gable and written by Arthur Miller, she wanted it to be a love letter between them but it was a real life reflective piece and that her whole existence to him was basically a joke, the cruelty of what his opinion of her really was. Adding that John Huston gambling away the studio money, it was all blamed on Marilyn and her "drug" problems.
Having taken all she can, she now ends her marriage to Miller and begins a new relationship with a new analyst, who believes he can fix her problems emotionally and physically as well, she was committed into a psych ward her biggest fear against her will. She is becoming what she fears, her mother who was institutionalized for much of Marilyn's childhood. the urgency is heard but ignored
Finally Joe DiMaggio gets her released and takes her home with him to the beach, where they reconcile and she works to reestablish her career, despite the derailment and her therapist becomes emotionally involved, taking her into his home and to control her as well. Emotional Security she calls it.
The final months of Marilyn includes her movie Something's Gotta Give with Dean Martin, difficulties in remembering her lines and showing up drunk as well as various infections cost the studio, who were in trouble over the drain the movie Cleopatra was becoming and. eventually she was fired and the studio smear campaign on her backfired when she created her own media campaign showcasing how in control she really was.
Her desire is to return to New York to the Actors studio to Lee Strasberg, as well as with Joe but unfortunately passes away before she is able to. Marilyn is found dead in bed in August of 1962. Her death is felt all over the world because She belonged to it.
This is the most comprehensive documentary on Marilyn Monroe, bringing to life the woman and legend to live, for those of us who weren't born in the age of Marilyn, it gives us a chance to experience life through her eyes and words, almost like she's speaking to us on a deeper level. This documentary introduces a new generation to Marilyn Monroe beyond the merchandising aspect of her.
I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful, but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.
She was right and as much as she struggled against it, in the end it was the fans who continue to carry on her legacy