‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe,’ Lifetime TV Mini-Series: Review Roundup

May 31, 2015

‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe,’ a new TV mini-series on Lifetime is drawing notice, with Kelli Garner in the title role, as social media weighs in. But what about the television critics? Check out a review roundup below.

Kelli Garner

Once again, our fascination and curiosity over the life of the late screen legend peaks as we’re offered yet another glimpse into her life. This time it’s under the tantalizing title ‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.’ Are there still secrets all these years later of the tragically short life of this movie icon? Regardless of yes or not, the book by J. Randy Taraborrelli of the same title was a huge bestseller and now, without a surprise it’s been made into a miniseries.

This time around, the honor of portraying the original blonde bombshell goes to Kelli Garner. The 31-year-old actress is best known for her roles in two short-lived TV series, ‘My Generation’ and ‘Pan Am.’ And she shares much screen time with the much more well-known Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon who portrays Gladys, the mentally-ill mother of Marilyn Monroe, or more properly of Norma Jeane Mortenson, as she was known before Hollywood gave her that famous screen name.

Four hours is a long stretch for the story of Marilyn Monroe, a long stretch to watch the tragedy unfold, as one hopes against hope for a happy ending, that she does not die so young at 36, and that in the years leading up to that untimely death she does not suffer so many indignities when clearly she is of such immense talent, even as Hollywood and the public tries to stuff her into a the blonde bombshell stereotype that doesn’t begin to encompass her. And yes, for an actress to bring this icon to life again, is surely a challenge.

Now given that daunting endeavor what do the television critics have to say of ‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe?’ Here’s a roundup.

“….Garner gives a surprisingly confident, spunky performance as the Monroe who crumbles before an audition and stands up to a hammerhead like DiMaggio. Sarandon doesn’t play nuts very often — she’s no Jessica Lange — but here she’s a complete whack job, with the kind of unpredictable, edgy behavior that leaves Monroe feeling helpless. ….” — New York Post

“….It’s nice that “The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe” works on those two levels — either as an immersive performance in which an actress you don’t know disappears into the iconography of one of the most famous women of the 20th Century or in which a long on-the-cusp actress finally fulfills her long-evident potential — because four hours is a lot of time to watch what is a very, very, very conventional biopic of a woman who hasn’t lacked for variably conventional biopics in the past….” — HitFix

“….Kelli Garner certainly throws herself into the title role of Lifetime’s two-night miniseries The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, adapted from the 2009 biography of the same name by J. Randy Taraborrelli. Yet she never seems to be doing anything more than celebrity karaoke, rarely digging deep beneath the long succession of hairstyles and form-fitting clothes….” — The Hollywood Reporter

“…. What sets this latest rehash of the star’s existence apart, marginally, is a knockout performance by Kelli Garner and, to a lesser degree, Susan Sarandon’s turn as her mentally disturbed mother, the relationship through which everything else about the girl born Norma Jean is filtered. Mostly, it’s a dutiful but nothing-new account of the ultimate anti-feminist icon — a sex symbol heavily defined by romances with famous men…..” — Variety

“….Kelli Garner, who plays Monroe, looks the part, but doesn’t deliver the intangibles. Susan Sarandon isn’t at her finest as Monroe’s disturbed mother Gladys….” — New York Daily News

“….Garner has existed on the edges of movies and television (Bully, Pan Am) without ever really getting a chance to star, and she does an impressive job with a woman who has been so mimicked and copied—by both people trying to play her and people trying to appropriate her. The “Marilyn” voice she uses doesn’t feel put-on—it feels a part of her. Monroe’s drugged-out, crazed moments, of which there are many, feel real. ….” — AV Club

The critics have weighed in, with diverging views, as social media continues to weigh in as well. Check out the official trailer of Kelli Garner in the title role of ‘The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe’ in the video below!

Pictures: PR Photos

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