TIFF 2012: Love, Marilyn – Liz Garbus


This film was, easily, THE film for me to see at TIFF this year.  It was the one I was most looking forward to – even to the point of carefully selecting which screening would be best for me to immerse myself most fully in the experience.  As soon as I heard it was coming to Toronto, I knew I had to be there.  I also knew that I didn’t have to be there for the gala premiere, because there are no Q&A’s at galas, and if there was even a chance of aQ&A for this one, I was desperate to see it.  For me, this film was not about the cast (though it has an amazing cast) and it was not about the director, Liz Garbus (though she’s lovingly crafted a wonderful movie).  For me, my whole reason for needing to see this film was about its legendary subject, Marilyn Monroe.

Anyone who knows me, and/or who read my thoughts on My Week With Marilyn, knows that this particular lady – who died a decade before I was born – now resides firmly inside the deepest recesses of my heart.  Since I was a teenager, I’ve soaked up as much information about her as I could find like a sponge, and there was no question that I’d be quick to view a film which features readings of her letters, diaries and personal thoughts – in her own words – as soon as I was given the opportunity.  Love, Marilyn brings to light some of the things written throughout part of Marilyn’s life, and stored away long ago, only to be discovered again very recently.  There is some rare footage of Marilyn, photographs and audio recordings that make up this film, as well, but much of it consists of an incredible array of modern actors reading aloud and interpreting Marilyn’s words for today’s audiences.  For the first time, some light could be shone on the mystery of who Marilyn Monroe really was by Marilyn herself.

On a personal level, I’ve always had this thing about handwriting.  I feel like it lets me see more of a person, when I see something they’ve written by hand, so getting glimpses of Marilyn’s handwriting was an incredible treat for me.  It made me feel even closer to her, and I settled happily into the darkened theatre to soak up each and every moment.  In addition to everything else, there were clips of interviews with people close to Marilyn in some way – friends, directors, co-stars; people who’d worked with her and known her on some level.  Some I’d seen before, and some were new; some filmed long ago, and some much more recently.  Many were quotes performed by various cast members, but all were personal in some way, and all helped to reveal a little bit more of the real woman behind the public persona.

The person whose interview clips got the most laughs and applause from the audience packing the theatre on this particular day was Marilyn’s longtime friend, Amy Greene.  The wife of her good friend and sometimes partner, Milton H. Greene, Amy had a lot of insight and humour to offer, and hearing her stories alongside Marilyn’s words were an incredible thrill for me.  I loved watching the many actors performing readings of Marilyn’s writings – Marisa Tomei was particularly wonderful to watch, in fact.  She’s someone whom I’ve always enjoyed, but for some reason I forget about her when I don’t see her for awhile, and end up re-discovering how amazing she is every time I finally get around to seeing her again.  So when the director was introducing the film, and mentioned that she’d be back with a very special guest for the Q&A after, I know at least part of me was hoping it would be Tomei, but truly, I knew even then that I would be happy to see whoever it was.  They’d just be adding more goodness to the conversation about Marilyn, after all, so no matter who turned up on stage after the end credits rolled, I knew it was going to be good.

What I didn’t expect, however, was that it would be completely freaking mind-blowingly awesome!  The very special guest – the one even Garbus and the programmer introducing the film were excited to sit down and talk with – was none other than the wonderful Amy Greene herself!!!  She’d come all the way to Toronto to take in the film’s gala premiere with the rest of the cast, and by some miracle she’d agreed to come to our screening as well, and take the stage to answer questions from the audience.  I can’t even tell you…being in the same room – even a large theatre like the Bloor (and I was way up in the balcony like a dumbass) – was so wonderfully overwhelming to me.  I am still trying to process the feeling, because just thinking about it all still brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat.

What struck me first and foremost about her is that Amy Greene is every bit as sassy and hilarious in person as she is when being interviewed on screen.  Donning a pair of dark glasses to protect her eyes from the bright lights, she took the stage with a vigor most wouldn’t expect.  She is not shy about giving her honest opinion when answering a question, and her insight is every bit as revealing now as it must have been when Marilyn was alive.  Maybe even more so now.  She surmised that, had she lived, Marilyn would likely have been a very unhappy old lady, as she was terrified of getting old.  She told us a story about the kind of skin cream Marilyn used to lather on her face constantly in an attempt to avoid the inevitable wrinkle from forming.  I can’t help but picture the two of them sassing the world together as outspoken old ladies, however.  They would have made a formidable pair, I suspect.  At any rate, Amy also said that the book, Fragments, which compiles together most of the writings used to create the film and more is, in her words, “lovely”.  Naturally, I picked up a copy right away.

The one thing she said about Marilyn Monroe that will always stick with me – and that I am so grateful to have heard her reveal with my own ears – is that she and Milton always believed in their hearts that Marilyn’s death was an accident; that “she just took one too many”.  I will always be beyond ecstatic and overwhelmed that I was at the Bloor Theatre to see this film and to hear Amy Greene speak in person.  It’s a moment I will cherish forever.  Most of all, I am so thankful that this film was made.  Love, Marilyn finally gives us a chance to hear Marilyn speak for herself, to voice her own thoughts in her own words, and to give us even just the tiniest glimpse into the woman we all wish we’d known, but who no one ever really did.

Love, Marilyn is screening as part of the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 9:00am.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Smellycat says:

    Thanks for this article !! I’m a big “fan” not specially of Marilyn Monroe, but of the woman, the person Norma Jean Baker. For the people who never been interested more by her story, who she is in real etc.. Marilyn is a pin-up, a false blonde capricious and not more.
    And I had this thought before know her more. It started one day when one of her movie was broadcasted in TV. I said myself “Ok, why not see what she did a bit ?”. And I was so surprised !! I really didnt expect that Marilyn could play in comedy and she just let me stuck ! I loved this movie and her performance, her character !
    It was the beginning… I bought and saw almost all her movies, read and bought a lot of books about her, articles etc… saw documentaries at TV… well I just learnt who she was in real. And that’s why I prefer now say that I admire Norma Jean Baker (btw I called my bunny Norma lol) than Marilyn Monroe.
    She was really someone with a huge heart and who knew a lot of hard moments, and Im always sad seeing some documentaries about her at TV..
    Well thank you for this article guys, hope see this movie soon ! 🙂

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