The first part of Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe has aired in the US, with the second half due this evening. In an insightful review for The AV Club, Molly Eichel considers why MM has proved so difficult to portray onscreen.
“Her talent lay in her incredible charisma: When she walked onscreen, even in the smallest roles (check her blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in All About Eve), she magically became the only thing worth looking at in the frame. But the problem with Monroe biopics is that it’s nearly impossible to capture that charisma. Few actors, if any, have that superpower to the same degree, which makes her copycats look that much more ridiculous trying to ape her mannerisms. As good as Garner is, she doesn’t have it.
It’s also incredibly difficult to reflect that power in screen versions of Monroe’s rise to fame. Instead, it all too often seems like Monroe got where she was by sleeping her way to the top, not because of her inherent talent and watchability…That’s not to say Monroe was some saintly nun who has been mischaracterized all these years, but The Secret Life Of Marilyn Monroe is yet another example of a show that makes it seem as if Marilyn’s ascent has little to do with how talented she actually is. Unlocking how to portray that is her ultimate secret.”