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Goodbye, Norma Jean: The World’s Most Famous Documentary Director about the World’s Most Beloved Movie Star Essay


When it seemed that there was nothing else people never knew about Marilyn Monroe and when the entire world started to forget about the way an unknown starlet Norma turned into the most famous star the humankind has ever known, Liz Garbus came into the spotlight, promising to shed even more light on the actress’s life and untimely death. Thus, Love, Marilyn was created. And, to the director’s credit, it was a kind of an unexpected movie to come out.

It is important that a lot of actors play themselves in the movie, which makes the documentary all the stronger. In addition, the fact that the focus of the story is in the interactions between Marilyn and other people is rather refreshing. Watching her act with the people around, the audience will get a better idea of what kind of person she was and how hard she worked on becoming who the entire world remembered her as.

It is also quite inspiring that in the movie, several actresses play Marilyn. Indeed, to show every single stage of her development both as a personality and as an actress, a single performer is not enough. The idea with using only Marilyn’s letters, notes and the existing recordings is rather wise as well – without the forced dialogue, the movie becomes even more realistic.

One of the most striking details about the movie was that, according to Garbus, every single line which Marilyn says in the movie actually belongs to her; as Garbus explained, the movie is based off of the memories of the people who interacted with real Marilyn Monroe, the actress. Thus, the movie offers a peculiar cadence of images and scenes which tell about Marilyn more than any biography can.

The most important thing about the movie is that it does not rely on the traditional legends surrounding Marilyn’s personality; nor does it create a recognizable image of Marilyn based on the already existing ones. For instance, the movie shows certain scenes which portray Marilyn as a childish and innocent person, yet Garbus does not want the audience to relate to Marilyn only as a woman child.

Garbus shows in a rather graphic way that there were far more facets in Marilyn’s personality; the actress is portrayed not only as innocence itself, but also as a woman obsessed with the stage, a woman hooked on drugs and even a femme fatale.

In addition, the emphasis in Garbus’ interpretation of Marilyn Monroe’s personality is obviously on a woman who achieved everything she had on her won. Garbus ruins the stereotypical image of Marilyn, making people see her as a human being, which is exactly why the given documentary works so well.

Actually, it is unusual to see a woman directing a movie about a woman in such an uncompromising and at the same time true-to-facts manner; without either whitewashing the actress’s story or adding even more gruesome facts to raise the shock values, Garbus actually manages to tell her variant of the famous story in a very new and inspiring way.

Portraying Marilyn as a three-dimensional character, admitting her numerous flaws and revealing her good sides, Liz Garbus shows the Marilyn the world has never seen – not an actress, not a woman child, but a human being.

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IvyPanda. (2018, December 9). Goodbye, Norma Jean: The World’s Most Famous Documentary Director about the World’s Most Beloved Movie Star. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-norma-jean-the-worlds-most-famous-documentary-director-about-the-worlds-most-beloved-movie-star/

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"Goodbye, Norma Jean: The World’s Most Famous Documentary Director about the World’s Most Beloved Movie Star." IvyPanda, 9 Dec. 2018, ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-norma-jean-the-worlds-most-famous-documentary-director-about-the-worlds-most-beloved-movie-star/.

1. IvyPanda. "Goodbye, Norma Jean: The World’s Most Famous Documentary Director about the World’s Most Beloved Movie Star." December 9, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-norma-jean-the-worlds-most-famous-documentary-director-about-the-worlds-most-beloved-movie-star/.


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IvyPanda. "Goodbye, Norma Jean: The World’s Most Famous Documentary Director about the World’s Most Beloved Movie Star." December 9, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-norma-jean-the-worlds-most-famous-documentary-director-about-the-worlds-most-beloved-movie-star/.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "Goodbye, Norma Jean: The World’s Most Famous Documentary Director about the World’s Most Beloved Movie Star." December 9, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/goodbye-norma-jean-the-worlds-most-famous-documentary-director-about-the-worlds-most-beloved-movie-star/.

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IvyPanda. (2018) 'Goodbye, Norma Jean: The World’s Most Famous Documentary Director about the World’s Most Beloved Movie Star'. 9 December.

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