On Sunday night, I watched Part 2 of Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.
I was watching it because I watched Part One on Saturday and I absolutely loved it! I wanted to see how Part Two would deal with the second half of Marilyn’s life. Would it explore the mysteries that still surround her death? Would the Kennedys make an appearance? Who would come off worse — Joe DiMaggio or Arthur Miller?
What Was It About?
Part Two of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe deals with her life after she became a star. We watch as the increasingly fragile Marilyn marries the physically abusive Joe DiMaggio (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the mentally abusive Arthur Miller (Stephen Bogaert). (Seriously, neither Joe nor Arthur comes across positively in this film.) Marilyn continues to deal with her own fears that she’ll go crazy like her mother (Susan Sarandon). She has a brief moment of hope when she meets John F. Kennedy, though the film is deliberately vague about the details of their relationship. Ultimately, she ends up having a breakdown and is hospitalized against her will. By the end of the film, it seems like she’s found some hope for the future but then, we see her tossing and turning in bed and clumsily reaching for a bottle of pills…
Kelli Garner’s performance as Marilyn was just impressive here as it was during the first part of the film.
What Did Not Work?
Sadly, Part Two just wasn’t as good as Part One. To a large extent, Part One worked because of the emphasis on Marilyn’s relationships with her mom (Susan Sarandon) and her adopted aunt Grace (Emily Watson). In Part Two, those relationships were overshadowed by Marilyn’s unhappy marriages to DiMaggio and Miller. As a result, the film lost some of its focus and it often seemed to be meandering from one unhappy scene to another until Marilyn’s final night.
Also, I was disappointed that the film was so vague in its approach to Marilyn’s relationship with the Kennedys. Listen, everyone knows that Marilyn had an affair with both Jack and Bobby Kennedy. The film tried to create some ambiguity about this point, never actually showing either Kennedy brother on screen and instead, just having Marilyn talk about them. Rather unfairly, this created the impression that both affairs could have been another one of Marilyn’s delusions. Quite frankly, Marilyn Monroe deserves better than that.
“Oh My God! Just like me!” Moments
Just as with Part One, there were several. Kelli Garner humanized her iconic role to such an extent that I think everyone watching could relate to her. I’ll just say that I’ve known my DiMaggios and my Millers and leave it at that.
Fame does not equal happiness.
In the end, Part Two was not as good as Part One but, overall, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was worth the 4 hours it took to watch it. It did a great job of recreating the Hollywood of the past and Kelli Garner gave a great performance. Since this is Lifetime that we’re talking about, I imagine both parts will be rerun frequently. If you missed them the first time, don’t make the same mistake twice!