This new documentary exploring the life and untimely death of Marilyn Monroe is fascinating in parts – but does become repetitive in a way that distracts from its purpose.
Marilyn Monroe is a name and person that continues to fascinate people all over the world not only for her acting and beauty – but sadly also the way in which her life was tragically cut short with many conspiracies as to what happened as this new Netflix documentary attempts to add some clarity to.
Directed with a great sense of theatricality by Emma Cooper, the documentary is led by Anthony Summers, whose recorded interviews with those who knew Marilyn form a strong background to uncovering a different side to the actress. From the off, Summers really highlights the importance in these interviews by somewhat (overly dramatically) declaring “The truth and Marilyn, it’s like going into the lion’s den.” – but even here, we are already questioning why this documentary is necessary when it is clear that her death will always be a murky subject with no clear answers – as the conclusion makes very clear.
What the documentary does do well is make use of the recorded interviews with the many different people that Marilyn knew, all of whom give detailed insight into her personality and I appreciated the way in which Emma Cooper uses actors to lip sync the footage to try and pull the significance of what is being said into the context of a bigger picture and adds more texture into what could have been a very dry documentary. This, combined with some lovely rarely seen footage of Marilyn and others such as Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio makes the documentary constantly engaging to watch.
Perhaps, there are moments which feel slightly rushed – in particular when delving into her background – in eagerness to get to her final weeks and what potentially happened to her in those final few days – but this final section of the documentary is fascinating to watch as it takes a darker and more political turn that gets the audience wondering what the FBI and the government were potentially worried about her knowing and how she ended up in the predicament that she did with the Kennedy brothers. However, it has to be said that the conclusion that Anthony Summers comes to is not particularly satisfactory – despite having gone into great depth – but leaves the audience wondering what was the real purpose of the documentary was and why now was the best time to re-visit this subject.
Overall, while the way in which Anthony Summers takes the lead on the documentary is in danger of becoming a little pompous there is no denying that the level of detail and research that he has spent at examining Marilyn Monroe is truly incredible. Meanwhile the documentary’s constant need to repeat facts might add a little drama, but it also takes time and focus away from telling Marilyn’s story through these lost tapes. But fans of Marilyn will relish this chance to explore Marilyn’s life through this compelling documentary.
By Emma Clarendon
The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes is available on Netflix now.