Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe grazes the surface concerning the part of the entertainment industry where malicious people lurk. These life suckers are few in numbers, but the few that are there can wreak havoc because they are sly and go unnoticed. This movie answers the questions of what happened to the demise of Judy Garland, Brian Wilson, Elvis Presley, Robin Williams and so forth. Remember when Marilyn Monroe died she was under the unfaithful care of a psychiatrist, Ralph Greenson. This mini-series is not all that factual about her true demons, but it does show the demise of her life relating to the demise of her mother.
The mini-series frames Marilyn as a tragic figure, pouring her heart and life out to a psychologist, played by Jack Noseworthy. The director, Laurie Collyer, has Noseworthy play the doctor as one who listens as Monroe recalls her life. The story begins with Marilyn being taken away from her mother. Susan Sarandon’s daughter, Eva Amurri Martino, plays the younger version of her mother while Sarandon plays the older version. We learn that Marilyn was raised by a guardian she named Aunt Grace, played convincingly by Emily Watson. She was also in an orphanage, but married at 16 just to find a place to live.
Within a few years, Norma Jean, now played honestly by Kelli Garner, launched her modeling career and slowly began to pursue her ambition to work in the movies. Soon, she discovers that being beautiful isn’t the send all to success. She advances once she establishes relationships with powerful men, including Johnny Hyde, played by Tony Nardi, a studio executive and her agent. He points her career in the right direction and changes her name to Marilyn Monroe. She is on her path to stardom.
Marilyn’s success came with new pressures. As professed in the mini-series, the studio pushed pills to keep her functioning. In truth, the studio doctors pushed the pills. The studio just wanted her stable and working. They didn’t have the solution to help her, so they counted on the resident psychiatrist to help her.
Despite all the pressures, Marilyn begins her sizzling romance with Joe DiMaggio, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Their relationship ends, and she falls in love with playwright Arthur Miller, played by Stephen Bogaert.
So far the series doesn’t shed light on anything new about Marilyn. Where are the secrets? We’ve all heard and seen this before. Still, the acting and directing keeps the interest high.
We also get a glimpse of John F. Kennedy. Here we see the famous performance by Marilyn singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to him. Garner not only looks the part, her voice matches Marilyn’s voice and mannerisms. It is an honest performance worth mentioning because of the nature of the material.
Yet, as the director Collyer takes the adapted screenplay and tries to explain away Marilyn’s troubles with mental illness. That is not her job as a director – just tell the story. Sure, being a successful artist in any field is stressful and should be addressed with honesty. I am sure there is a side to Marilyn that is very positive and endearing. But, this series portrays her, like most interpretations, as pity. “Everyone uses everyone,” according to a line in the movie. I beg to differ because if she truly had help, she would still be alive today.
We need to help artists in any way that is non-destructive with drugs and confinement. Do no harm but help with safe and sane methods.