I had already watched the documentary on Marilyn, “Marilyn: The Last Sessions”, so all I was interested in during the movie was how much it would stay true to the reality. Although the movie is narrated by Colin, the “third assistant director” (a nobody) who falls in love with her just like every other man who comes into her life, he is nothing but a window that the audience looks into to watch Marilyn. It makes sense, because how could anyone else be the protagonist in a movie that is about the Marilyn Monroe? I had my doubts about Michelle Williams acting as Marilyn, for she really looks nothing like Marilyn or has any of her iconic features. When she opened her mouth, however, I was drawn to her immediately; she sounded exactly like Marilyn. In my mind, I couldn’t help myself but to compare the movie to the documentary, and overall, the movie did an outstanding job portraying all the necessary and important issues surrounding Marilyn’s short life, and creating precious moments that gently revealed her character and state of mind. The subtlety in William’s expressions and voice was exactly what perfected it.
There is no sugarcoating of Marilyn’s personal life in the movie. “You never leave her side. Day or night. Her behavior is reputedly a little erratic” – this is the very first statement the audience hears about Marilyn. Then something else that is similar comes up later, “You don’t leave Marilyn alone. She can’t handle it. She thinks everyone will abandon her”. So even from the beginning of the movie, Marilyn is upset and crying, with barely any make-up on. To most people around Marilyn, they are sticking around because it’s their job. There is no sense of genuine sympathy, and some even refer to her as a “cash cow.” So that’s it. The movie wants the audience to feel all the sympathy towards Marilyn that no one else at the time had.
Not only is Marilyn an insecure emotional mess who relies on “pills” day and night, she also doesn’t believe she is of any worth. “All little girls should be told how pretty they are,” Marilyn whispers to herself, and tells us her little secret, “(they) should grow up knowing how much their mother loves them.” I already knew she never had a family who loved her from the documentary. She never knew her mother’s love, or how a husband ought to treat his wife. So then how did she know what she was really looking for when she sought love? She didn’t. Marilyn never understood true love and so she perhaps convinced herself that it was something unobtainable, but something she just could not give up on. Even Marilyn’s giggles in the movie are sullen, and there is a clear desperation in her (Williams) eyes – this is why Michelle Williams could be a successful Marilyn Monroe without looking like her. Williams became a spokesperson for every woman who feels what Marilyn felt, and for every woman who seeks what Marilyn sought (but never even touched).
At last, when Colin suggests her leaving this glamorous and meaningless life to be happy, she firmly replies, “I am happy.” “Of course you are. You’re the biggest star in the world,” Colin says with a sad smile, gazing down at the biggest falling star in the world. That’s what Marilyn really was, the biggest falling star. With her promiscuous posing and dancing, and three husbands, everyone knew Marilyn was the furthest thing from an innocent virgin. But truly, she still was when it came to “unconditional love.” She was neither a clueless woman nor unaware, but an empty one that no one could help, not even herself.
To my surprise, the movie showed very little skin, probably to pay Marilyn more respect as an individual who passed so early on, but also because that wasn’t the focus – another subtlety that made this film respectable.
written by Yuris Kim