The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe Miniseries

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Kelli Garner (The Aviator, Pan Am) plays the legendary star Marilyn Monroe in Lifetime’s four-hour event, premiering Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31, at 8pm ET/PT.  The miniseries, which uncovers many closely-guarded secrets the blonde bombshell kept from the public, also stars Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking, The Last of Robin Hood) as Marilyn’s biggest secret of all, her mother Gladys, long institutionalized for mental illness.  Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Emily Watson (Hilary and Jackie) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Texas Rising, Magic City) also headline the cast while Sarandon’s daughter Eva Amurri Martino (Californication) plays Gladys in her youth. Morgan stars as Joe DiMaggio while Watson portrays Grace McKee, Marilyn’s childhood guardian.

“The Late Marilyn Monroe”, is the first line of many in this miniseries that will stick with you throughout. Based on the bestseller by J. Randy Taraborrelli’s, it’s classic storytelling as Marilyn retells her childhood to a doctor. The flashbacks start with Marilyn’s mother Gladys and showing the mental illness she suffered and how it affected Marilyn’s childhood and leading into her adult life. This is not a light-hearted story and will pull at your emotions as Marilyn strives to become an actress while slowly succumbing to the mental illness her mother suffers while wading through the sexism of the industry and her addiction. You’ll find a common theme of sex and drugs heavily influencing Marilyn’s behavior as she seduces her way into the spotlight. This brilliantly shows what she had to endure and sacrifice to able to act and model.

One line that really stuck out, “It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde.” It perfectly sums up the underline power and storytelling of Marilyn Monroe as she used her seduction to drive her career to success. She was a mistress of manipulation and used it to the ultimate advantage which is shown heavily throughout the miniseries.

It’s heartbreaking to see as Marilyn’s dream of acting turns into hiding behind a character while her mind slowly slips away. Marilyn Monroe was a fantasy for men but ultimately became a fantasy for herself. The story being told is too big to be captured in yet another movie adaption. I doubt there would ever be a medium that will truly portray the phenomenon of such a legend. However, this adaption holds it own with a strong cast and clever script.

Kelli Garner is absolutely mind-blowing as Marilyn Monroe. Garner really captured the mannerisms unique to Marilyn. Seeing the progression of her character is beautifully portrayed as she develops the look she was famous for. Her performance really drives home the sexism of the industry and what was strategy in breaking out in the business. Seeing her crack under the men who begin to see her illness and flaws is so well done it’s heart wrenching.

As amazing as Kelli Garner is as Marilyn Monroe, the standout performance goes to Susan Sarandon as Gladys Mortenson. Every scene she’s in is captivating, drawing you into the intensity of the mental illness the character suffers and the damaging comments delivered to Marilyn. It just adds to the heartbreak of seeing Marilyn start to express the same symptoms.

The acting is just as phenomenal as the writing is catchy and well told. The settings, fashion, and love affairs will keep you captivated till the very end. This is defiantly a miniseries I would watch more than once. However, be advised some scenes contain rape, incest, abuse, attempted suiciced and drug use as these might be triggering for some.

Be sure to catch part two Sunday at 8pm ET/PT on Lifetime. The best scenes of the miniseries are near the end of part two and shouldn’t be missed. This is the half you’re going to want to see as it kicks off with Marilyn’s relationship with Joe DiMaggio, excellently played by Jeffery Dean Morgan, and leading to the downfall of Marilyn’s sanity as she succumbs to addiction and her illness.


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