Review by Ann McDonald
A chronicle of Marilyn Monroe’s family life and how she succeeded in hiding her most intimate secrets from the press and an invasive world.
Lifetime offers us a glimpse into the private life of Marilyn Monroe. I really didn’t learn anything new about her life but it was presented well. As the show begins, a young psychiatrist, Dr. Ennis (Jeff Kassel), is waiting in Ms. Monroe’s living room to speak to her and assess her. He is about to leave when she comes in and bats her eyelashes at him, “Am I late?” she asks as they both size each other up. She is not sure she wants him as her doctor and he is just as unsure about her. When her staff leaves the house, they are left alone to sort out their situation.
It’s through this framework that we go back and forth throughout Marilyn’s life and it’s a format that works exceedingly well. A word about the players, Kelli Garner is a wonderful Marilyn Monroe in a role that took more that just simpering and strutting, she did all of that admirably but she also brought pain and compassion with love thrown in to her role. Emily Watson gives a great performance as Grace McKee, a guardian to Marilyn when she was young and a friend who never let her down in her adult years, all the time you are aware of how fragile Marilyn’s world is.
Susan Sarandon, a very accomplished actress, plays Marilyn’s mother Gladys, that is both loved and hated by Marilyn, she is hidden away in an institution so that the public won’t be made aware of a flawed family. As I said, this particular format of flashbacks is produced assuredly, we see her begin to to find her dream, you see the men who used her as all starlets were used as they went through the Hollywood machine and I guess that is nothing new, even today.
The three husbands are presented as cameos and Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays Joe DiMaggio, giving a creditable performance as do all of the supporting actors and because of the quality of this support, it lifts this show above a very thin back story. Marilyn’s affair with John F. Kennedy is barely touched upon, I mean if it happened, it happened, why not finish the story in whole instead of part? All in all however, the show was interesting and if you are a fan of Marilyn, you will enjoy it. Men, pills and booze eventually took her away and it was so sad.
“The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” premieres May 30th and concludes May 31st at 8/7c on Lifetime