Thursday, March 10, 2011

Accept No Substitutes.

With all of the hoopla regarding the back to back upcoming features on Marilyn Monroe, (the first being My Week with Marilyn with Michelle Williams, the second being the ever redundantly named Blonde with Naomi Watts. The former is set for release in 2011 and is directed by Simon Curtis a no-name who's resume is exclusive to drawn-out Dickens adaptations for the BBC. The latter I might have a bit more faith in, considering Andrew Dominic is the director, known for such awesome underrated works like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), and Chopper (2000). 
But lets forget all of that for one second, we know that these films are only going to be even considered for how the respective leads are able to physically and emotionally portray the icon. And therein lies the dilemma that for some reason people refuse to learn from. For me, I begin to physically hate the actor working on their best husky voice and lip pursing in a futile effort to mimic Monroe's habits and idiosyncrasies. And I mean severe hate. It's just such an overt display disrespect, it's almost sickening. Watch one Monroe movie, just one. Let's say Niagra, or Bus Stop, you'll see immediately why biopics about her are the kiss of death in the industry. Let's not stand on ceremony and weep over how she's such an original that could never be replicated (all true by the way) but it seems that those moronic actresses back in the 80's and 90's didn't even try. They just get their hair and make-up done, put on a cheap imitation of the infamous 'skin and beads' dress Monroe donned to sing happy birthday to JFK and wait for those Golden Globe nominations to start coming in. 

All in all, it's pretty pathetic. Firstly, you can put monroe-esque make-up on a chimp to get the iconography across and the resemblance off, all you need is some bright red lipstick, black eye-liner, and a blonde wig, but those three parts of the equation to not equal a proper simulcra, or even a 'spot on' performance. Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino was perhaps the most offensive in a long line of Monroe immitators, for the equally as bad film Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996). It might have been the worst thing I've ever seen in terms of made-for-television bio-pics, and that includes the horrendous torture fest that is Jennifer Love-Hewitt doing Audrey Hepburn in the aptly titled The Audrey Hepburn Story (2000) Yes...that happened. The producers probably figured, 'hey, she just won an Oscar for Mighty Aphrodite, and if you squint and give her the appropriate trifecta of lipstick, wig, and eye-liner, we could totally make a movie out of this.' And unfortunately they did. She ended up giving Monroe some kind of strange accent, and pretty much just flopping around whining and crying.  It was pathetic in all respects. After that fiasco, Lucifer didn't wait too long before striking again, this time creating something so horrific that it left scars in my psyche. The atom bomb was called (again) Blonde (2000) and starred Poppy Montgomery from Dead Man on Campus fame. Apart from providing her with a much cheaper version of the imitation trifecta, they just straight up made shit up. I don't think there was a single accurate story line in the whole film. It was just such a sad experience all around, I'm sure any member of that crew left it off their resume. But at least I was able to figure it out. These kind of atrocities inflict the industry because of the general public's thirst for sensationalism coupled with our intrinsic desire to understand the mysterious, and none was more sensationalized and more mysterious than Marilyn. But my god, couldn't have one person on that set done like an hour's worth of research? Even an hour's worth would have made any of these moronic adaptations a million percent better. 
Why is it all actresses are asked to stand like that and open their mouths just so? I understand how that's an iconic image of her, but it's a bit on the cliche side, no? It really looks like the picture that should be on the front of a Monroe Halloween costume. 
In conclusion. My advice would be to check out her last interview, it's very telling and saves you all of the trouble of fighting back throw up. It's on the youtubes, full version. Bottom line is, with someone like Monroe, it's going to be just far too complicated to 'nail it' (no pun intended). So given the history of her biopic assaults on pop-culture, I'm not too excited about these two back to back interpretations coming up in the next two years. Although I have respect for both actresses, I'm very very skeptical. People like to let clap-trap and sap run away with them, and leave the real story completely in ruins, sensationalized and revamped into a mindless clusterfuck of cheap melodrama. I'm staying optimistic, I'm just saying it's very hard to. 

1 comment:

RideHanna said...

I have to agree with you, Marilyn even in her life time was aware of the multitude of wannbe's. She basically said they either lacked the background or the foreground. My one quibble though is "Marilyn Monroe" per se was a character that Marilyn the actress played. by 1962 Marilyn was tired of her. In the Richard Meryman interview there is but a trace of the rinky dink voice instead we glimpse a sensitive woman who shhots from the hip. smart yet a little wobbly. My advice to any actress aspiring to play Marilyn. First make sure you morphology is similar, Marilyn's teeth setting was very particular, slightly horsey, without the right teeth setting all lip movements will look contrived and grotesque. In the past actresses have made the mistake (Mira Sorvino) in particular played Marilyn like some pathetic sap. Marilyn had spunk and oomph. Most of all play her with a sense of fun and wonder. Sam Shaw once told me "she was dazzling" why? because she was dazzled.