Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Atlantic City (dir by Louis Malle)


(With the Oscars scheduled to be awarded on March 4th, I have decided to review at least one Oscar-nominated film a day.  These films could be nominees or they could be winners.  They could be from this year’s Oscars or they could be a previous year’s nominee!  We’ll see how things play out.  Today, I take a look at the 1981 best picture nominee, Atlantic City!)

Welcome to Atlantic City, New Jersey!

It’s a city with a storied past and an uncertain future.  It’s a place where old men on street corners can tell you stories about meeting Bugsy Siegel in the lobby of an old hotel that’s just been demolished.  The decrepit remains of old Atlantic City co-exists next to half-completed luxury casinos and hotels.  It’s a place where business deals are celebrated in the Frank Sinatra Suite and where a woman trying to make a very important phone call might find herself being serenaded by Robert Goulet.

It’s also the home of Lou (Burt Lancaster).  From the minute we first see Lou, it’s obvious that he’s a man past his time.  He walks up and down the worst streets of Atlantic City, dressed in a gray suit and trench coat.  With his white mustache and his coolly professional manner, he looks like he belongs in an old movie and not hanging out in his shabby apartment or drinking in the local bar.  When Lou was younger, he was acquainted with all of the big names: Siegel, Luciano, Costello, Lansky.  Of course, he wasn’t ever much of a mobster.  He used to run numbers.  If pressed, he’ll tell some interesting stories but it’s not difficult to tell that he’s lying.  (At one point, it’s mentioned that Lou’s Mafia nickname was Numbnut.)  Now, Lou is an old man.  Much like a condemned Atlantic City hotel, he’ll soon be due for demolition.  He spends most of his time taking care of Grace (Kate Reid), the widow of a mobster.  When he’s not responding to Grace’s demands, he watches his neighbor, Sally (Susan Sarandon).

Sally is originally from Canada.  She came to America looking for a better life and ended up working as a waitress.  Under the strict tutelage of Joseph (Michel Piccoli), Sally is learning how to be a blackjack dealer.  Someday, she hopes that she’ll be able to move out of her apartment and into a communal house on the beach.  Until then, she works hard every day and then returns to her apartment, little realizing that she’s being watched by Lou.

And then David shows up.

David (played by Canadian character actor Robert Joy) is Sally’s estranged husband.  Sally knows that David can’t be trusted but she reluctantly allows him and his pregnant girlfriend (Hollis McLaren) to stay with her for a few days.  David has stolen a large amount of cocaine from the Philadelphia mob.  David wants to sell it but he quickly discovers that no one in Atlantic City is willing to deal with someone who they don’t know.  Fortunately, for David, he runs into Lou.  Lou, looking for a chance to be a real gangster and also wanting a chance to get closer to Sally, agrees to help David sell the cocaine.  Unfortunately, for David, two hit men from Philadelphia have traced him to Atlantic City and are determined to not only get their cocaine back but to also kill David as well.

It may sound like the set up for a standard crime thriller but Atlantic City is actually a thoughtful meditation on getting older, falling in love, and dealing with the fact that things change.  Lou is a relic of the past, looking for one last chance to make his mark before, like the older buildings on the boardwalk, he’s demolished and forgotten about.  Sally and David are the dreamers, hoping to build a future in America.

Louis Malle directs at a leisurely pace.  Those looking for a hyperkinetic gangster film will be disappointed.  There’s only two acts of violence in Atlantic City and Malle presents both of them in a low-key, matter-of-fact fashion.  Instead, Malle focuses on exploring the lives and dreams of the film’s characters and Burt Lancaster rewards that attention with an absolutely outstanding performance as a dignified man who knows his best days are behind him but who still refuses to give in to defeat.  It’s one of Lancaster’s best performances and he was rewarded with an Oscar nomination for best actor.

Atlantic City was nominated for best picture but lost to Chariots of Fire.

Here’s What Won At The Emmys Last Night!


Last night, Lisa Marie did not watch the Emmys because she says that, “I’m just not feeling TV this year.”  If Twin Peaks had been eligible to be nominated, I bet it would have been a different story!

Instead, she asked me to watch the ceremony and let everyone know what I thought.  It needed less politics and more cats.

Here’s the list of winners:

COMEDY

BEST COMEDY SERIES
“Atlanta”
“Black-ish”
“Masters of None”
“Modern Family”
“Silicon Valley”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
X — “Veep”

BEST COMEDY ACTRESS
Pamela Adlon, “Better Things”
Jane Fonda, “Grace and Frankie”
Allison Janney, “Mom”
Ellie Kemper, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
X — Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Tracee Ellis Ross, “Black-ish”
Lily Tomlin, “Grace and Frankie”

BEST COMEDY ACTOR
Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”
Aziz Ansari, “Master of None”
Zach Galifianaks, “Baskets”
X — Donald Glover, “Atlanta”
William H. Macy, “Shameless”
Jeffrey Tambor, “Transparent”

BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Vanessa Bayer, “Saturday Night Live”
Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”
Kathryn Hahn, “Transparent”
Leslie Jones, “Saturday Night Live”
Judith Light, “Transparent”
X — Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”

BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTOR
Louie Anderson, “Baskets”
X — Alec Baldwin, “Saturday Night Live”
Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
Tony Hale, “Veep”
Matt Walsh, “Veep”

BEST COMEDY DIRECTING
X — “Atlanta” (“B.A.N.”)
“Silicon Valley” (“Intellectual Property”)
“Silicon Valley” (“Server Error”)
“Veep” (“Justice”)
“Veep” (“Blurb”)
“Veep” (“Groundbreaking”)

BEST COMEDY WRITING
“Atlanta” (“B.A.N.”)
“Atlanta” (“Streets on Lock”)
X — “Master of None” (“Thanksgiving”)
“Silicon Valley” (“Success Failure”)
“Veep” (“Groundbreaking”)
“Veep” (“Georgia”)

DRAMA

BEST DRAMA SERIES
“Better Call Saul”
“The Crown”
X — “The Handmaid’s Tale”
“House of Cards”
“Stranger Things”
“This is Us”
“Westworld”

BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
Viola Davis, “How to Get Away with Murder”
Claire Foy, “The Crown”
X — Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Keri Russell, “The Americans”
Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld”
Robin Wright, “House of Cards”

BEST DRAMA ACTOR
X — Sterling K. Brown, “This is Us”
Anthony Hopkins, “Westworld”
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Matthew Rhys, “The Americans”
Liev Schreiber, “Ray Donovan”
Kevin Spacey, “House of Cards”
Milo Ventimiglia, “This is Us”

BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Uzo Aduba, “Orange is the New Black”
Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”
X — Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Chrissy Metz, “This is Us”
Thandie Newton, “Westworld”
Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”
David Harbour, “Stranger Things”
Ron Cephas Jones, “This is Us”
Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”
X — John Lithgow, “The Crown”
Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”
Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”

BEST DRAMA DIRECTING
“Better Call Saul” (“Witness”)
“The Crown” (“Hyde Park Corner”)
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (“The Bridge”)
X — “The Handmaid’s Tale” (“Offred”)
“Homeland” (“America First”)
“Stranger Things” (“Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”)
“Westworld” (“The Bicameral Mind”)

BEST DRAMA WRITING
“The Americans” (“The Soviet Division”)
“Better Call Saul” (“Chicanery”)
“The Crown” (“Assassins”)
X — “The Handmaid’s Tale” (“Offred”)
“Stranger Things” (“Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers”)
“Westworld” (“The Bicameral Mind”)

MOVIE/LIMITED SERIES

BEST LIMITED SERIES
X — “Big Little Lies”
“Fargo”
“Feud: Bette and Joan”
“Genius”
“The Night Of”

BEST TV MOVIE
X — “Black Mirror: San Junipero”
“Christmas of Many Colors”
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
“The Wizard of Lies”

BEST MOVIE/MINI ACTRESS
Carrie Coon, “Fargo”
Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”
X — Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Jessica Lange, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Susan Sarandon, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”

BEST MOVIE/MINI ACTOR
X — Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies”
Ewan McGregor, “Fargo”
Geoffrey Rush, “Genius”
John Turturro, “The Night Of”

BEST MOVIE/MINI SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Judy Davis, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
X — Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”
Jackie Hoffman, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Regina King, “American Crime”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “The Wizard of Lies”
Shailene Woodley, “Big Little Lies”

BEST MOVIE/MINI SUPPORTING ACTOR
Bill Camp, “The Night Of”
Alfred Molina, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
X — Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”
David Thewlis, “Fargo”
Stanley Tucci, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Michael Kenneth Williams, “The Night Of”

BEST MOVIE/MINI DIRECTING
X — “Big Little Lies”
“Fargo” (“The Law of Vacant Places”)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (“And the Winner Is”)
“Genius” (“Einstein: Chapter One”)
“The Night Of” (“The Art of War”)
“The Night Of” (“The Beach”)

BEST MOVIE/MINI WRITING
“Big Little Lies”
X — “Black Mirror: San Junipero”
“Fargo” (“The Law of Vacant Places”)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (“And the Winner Is”)
“Feud: Bette and Joan” (“Pilot”)
“The Night Of” (“Call of the Wild”)

VARIETY/REALITY

BEST REALITY COMPETITION PROGRAM
“The Amazing Race”
“Amercan Ninja Warrior”
“Project Runway”
“RuPaul’s Drag Race”
“Top Chef”
X — “The Voice”

BEST VARIETY TALK SERIES
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
X — “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
“Late Late Show with James Corden”
“Late Show with Stephen Colbert”
“Real Time with Bill Maher”

BEST VARIETY SKETCH SERIES
“Billy on the Street”
“Documentary Now”
“Drunk History”
“Portlandia”
X — “Saturday Night Live”
“Tracey Ullman’s Show”

BEST VARIETY SERIES DIRECTING
“Drunk History”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
“Late Show with Stephen Colbert”
X — “Saturday Night Live”

BEST VARIETY SERIES WRITING
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”
X — “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
“Late Night with Seth Meyers”
“Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #16: Zoolander 2 (dir by Ben Stiller)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Wednesday, November 30th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

zoolander_2_poster

On October 14th, I recorded Zoolander 2 off of Epix.

A sequel to the 2001 cult hit, Zoolander 2 came out earlier this year and got absolutely terrible reviews and quickly vanished from theaters.  Watching the film last night, I could understand why it got such terrible reviews.  Zoolander 2 is not only a terrible movie but it’s also a rather bland one.  Somehow, the blandness is even more offensive than the badness.

Zoolander 2 opens with Justin Bieber getting assassinated and Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) being forced to come out of retirement and discover why pop stars are being targeted.  And, of course, Zoolander can’t do it without the help of Hansel (Owen Wilson)!  Penelope Cruz is in the film as well, playing  Zoolander’s handler and essentially being wasted in a role that could have been played by anyone.

Oh!  And Will Ferrell returns as well.  Ferrell gives a performance that essentially shouts out to the world, “Fuck you, I’m Will Ferrell and no one is going to tell Will Ferrell to tone his shit down!”

Actually, I think everyone in the world is in Zoolander 2.  This is one of those films that is full of cameos from people who probably thought a silly comedy would be good for their image.  For instance, there’s a huge number of journalists who show up playing themselves.  Matt Lauer shows up and I get the feeling that we’re supposed to be happy about that.  There was a reason why people cheered when the sharks ate him in Sharknado 3.

You know who else shows up as himself?  Billy Zane!  And Billy Zane has exactly the right type of attitude for a film like this.  He shows up and he mocks the whole enterprise by giving the Billy Zaniest performance of Billy Zane’s career.  For that matter, Kiefer Sutherland also shows up as himself.  I’m not really sure what Kiefer was doing in the film but he makes sure to deliver all of his lines in that sexy growl of his.  Kiefer knows what we want to hear.

You may notice that I’m not talking about the plot of Zoolander 2.  That’s largely because I couldn’t follow the plot.  This is an incredibly complicated film but it’s not complicated in a funny way.  Instead, it’s complicated in a way that suggests that the film was made up on the spot.  It’s as if the cast said, “We’re all funny!  Just turn on the camera and we’ll make it work!”

The problem with Zoolander 2 is obvious.  The first film pretty much exhausted the comic possibilities of making a spy film about shallow and stupid models.  Don’t get me wrong — the first film did a good job but it’s not like it left any material untapped.  But I would ask you to indulge me as I imagine an alternate reality.

Consider this: Terrence Malick was reportedly a huge fun of Zoolander.

Let’s take just a minute to imagine a world in which Ben Stiller asked Terrence Malick to write and direct Zoolander 2.  And let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Malick agreed!

Just think about it — 4 hours of Zoolander and Hansel staring up at the sky and thinking about nature.  “What is this thing that causes the heart of man to beat?” Zoolander asks.  “Are we nature or has nature become us?” Hansel replies.

That would have been a fun film!

In Praise of Alan Rickman: The January Man (1989, directed by Pat O’Connor)


JanuarymanposterLast week, when the world first learned of the death of the actor Alan Rickman, it was shocking to realize just how many great roles he had played.  He made his feature film debut as Hans Gruber in Die Hard.  He played Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Hilly Kristal in CGBG and Marvin the Paranoid Android in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  He even played Leonard Nimoy Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest.  But the first time I ever saw Alan Rickman, he was playing Ed the Painter in The January Man.

As The January Man begins, the new year is barely a day old and already Manhattan is in a panic.  Over the past 11 months, a serial killer has terrorized the city, killing one woman per month.  His latest victim, Allison Hawkins (Faye Grant) was murdered on New Year’s Eve.  Now, it’s January and everyone in New York City is waiting for the killer to strike again.

Mayor Flynn (Rod Steiger, bellowing his lines as only an Oscar-winning “great” actor can) is upset because Allison was a friend of his daughter, Bernadette (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio).  Flynn orders the police commissioner, Frank Starkey (Harvey Keitel), to put his brother on the case.  Nick Starky (Kevin Kline) was the best detective in New York but Frank framed him on corruption charges.  Now, Nick is working as a fireman and does not want to return to police work.  However, Nick tells Frank that he will investigate the murders on one condition: Nick wants to make dinner for Frank’s wife (and Nick’s former lover), Christine (Susan Sarandon).

After cooking an octopus for Christine, Nick works the case.  His unorthodox methods get on the nerves of Capt. Alcoa (Danny Aiello, bellowing almost as much as Rod Steiger) but also wins him the heart of Bernadette.  Helping him investigate the case (and repainting his office) is his neighbor, Ed (Alan Rickman).  Ed is not only a painter but he’s also a computer expert who figures out exactly where the killer is going to strike next.

The January Man was Alan Rickman’s second film and followed his debut in Die Hard.  Other than sharing a similarly sarcastic sense of humor, Ed the Painter is the exact opposite of Hans Gruber.  Gruber was a murderer who would do anything for money.  Ed is an artist who wants only to paint and hang out with Nick Starkey.

When I first saw The January Man, I was seven years old and I was on an airplane flying to London.  I was too young to really understand what was happening in the movie but I knew that Ed was my favorite character because he was the one who got all the funny lines and he spoke with a British accent.  When he told one of his models “Don’t molest anything,” I thought it was hilarious even though I did not really understand what he was talking about.  (Years later, I would watch The January Man on HBO and I would discover that Ed made his living painting nudes and that Bernadette and Nick were having sex, all information that was edited out of the airplane version.)

After I heard that Rickman had died, I rewatched The January Man for the first time in years.  I discovered that The January Man is a terrible movie that tries to unsuccessfully to mix slapstick comedy with brutal serial killer action but Alan Rickman still gives a really good performance, the best in the film.  (A close second would be Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, whose smile lights up every scene in which she appears.  She married the movie’s director so at least she got something good out of appearing in The January Man.)  That Alan Rickman is one of the film’s few bright spots is a testament to his talent as an actor.  Alan Rickman was such a great actor that he even made The January Man watchable.

Alan Rickman

RIP, Alan Rickman.

Here Are The Very Confusing SAG Nominations!


Spotlight

The nominees for the SAG Awards were announced earlier today!  The SAG Awards are usually one of the more accurate of the various Oscar precursors.  Because so many members of the Academy are also members of the Screen Actors Guild, the SAG Awards are usually a pretty good indication of what films are on the Academy’s radar and which ones aren’t.  Occasionally, an actor will be nominated by SAG and then snubbed by the Academy.  Last year, for instance, SAG nominated Jake Gyllenhall for Nightcrawler, Jennifer Aniston for Cake, and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent.  None of those three received any love from the Academy.  But, for the most part, SAG is one of the most reliable precursors out there.

And that’s why so many of us are in shock today!  The SAG Awards in no way resembled what many of us were expecting.  Other than Spotlight, none of the film’s that many of us expected to be nominated for best ensemble (the SAG’s equivalent of the Academy’s best picture) were nominated (and even Spotlight only received one other nomination, for Rachel McAdams who, up to this point, hasn’t really figured into the Oscar discussion).  The Martian was not nominated for best ensemble or anything else for that matter.  Creed was totally snubbed.  Brooklyn was nominated for actress but not ensemble.  Mad Mad: Fury Road was nominated for its stunt work and nothing else.  Helen Mirren received two nominations, for films that hardly anyone (outside of the SAG, obviously) was really paying any attention to.  Sarah Silverman received a best actress nomination for I Smile Back, which I hadn’t even heard of until about a week ago.  It’s an unexpected and strange group of nominees.

Keep in mind, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the nominees are unexpected.  Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton will both receive deserved boosts in their hunt for Oscar gold.  At the same time, I have to admit that I wasn’t happy to see either The Big Short or Trumbo nominated for best ensemble because I know I’m going to feel obligated to see them and they both look so freaking tedious and blandly political!  But consider this: if The Big Short and Trumbo are both huge Oscar contenders, we may face a situation where both Jay Roach and Adam McKay are nominated for best director in the same year.  I think that’s one of the signs of the apocalypse and, at this point, I’m kind of ready to welcome the end of the world.

Anyway, here are the SAG nominations!  Look them over and, after the Golden Globe nominations are announced tomorrow, update your Oscar predictions accordingly.

Best Performance by a Cast Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

  • Cate Blanchett – Carol
  • Brie Larson – Room
  • Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold
  • Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
  • Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Rooney Mara – Carol
  • Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
  • Helen Mirren – Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

Best Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

Best Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

  • Downton Abbey
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • House of Cards
  • Mad Men

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

  • Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
  • Jon Hamm – Mad Men
  • Rami Malek – Mr. Robot
  • Bob Odenkirk – Better Call Saul
  • Kevin Spacey – House of Cards

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

  • Claire Danes – Homeland
  • Viola Davis – How to Get Away with Murder
  • Julianna Marguilles – The Good Wife
  • Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey
  • Robin Wright – House of Cards

Best Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Key and Peele
  • Modern Family
  • Orange is the New Black
  • Transparent
  • Veep

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Ty Burrell – Modern Family
  • Louis CK – Louie
  • William H. Macy – Shameless
  • Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
  • Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Uzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black
  • Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
  • Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
  • Amy Poehler – Parks and Recreation

Best Performance by a Male Actor in a TV Movie or Mini-Series

  • Idris Elba – Luther
  • Ben Kingsley – Tut
  • Ray Liotta — Texas Rising
  • Bill Murray – A Very Murray Christmas
  • Mark Rylance – Wolf Hall

Best Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Mini-Series

Best Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Comedy or Drama Series

  • Blacklist
  • Game of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • Marvel’s Daredevil
  • The Walking Dead

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #126: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Part 2 (dir by Laurie Collyer)


On Sunday night, I watched Part 2 of Lifetime’s The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

The Secret Life of Marilyn MonroeWhy Was I Watching It?

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…

What Worked?

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.

Lessons Learned

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!

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #125: The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, Part I (dir by Laurie Collyer)


Earlier tonight, I watched Part One of the latest Lifetime original movie, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

Why Was I Watching It?

Lifetime has been advertising The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe for about two months now.  From the first commercial, I knew that this was something that I was going to have to watch.  After all, a movie about a famous and tragic actress on the always melodramatic Lifetime network?  How could I not watch?

What Was It About?

It’s right there in the title.  The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe tells the story of how poor country girl Norma Jean Baker became the iconic Marilyn Monroe.  The first part of this two-part film dealt with Marilyn’s early years.  We watched as Marilyn (played by Kelli Garner) made her way out to Hollywood and appeared in her first few films, all the while dealing with her mentally unstable mother, Grace (Susan Sarandon).  Part One ended with Marilyn on the verge of becoming the world’s biggest star.  It was a happy ending for Marilyn but not so much for the audience because we know what’s going to happen to her during Part II.

What Worked?

The first part of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was everything that you could possibly want from a Lifetime movie.  The costumes, the production design, the cinematography — it was all properly opulent and wonderful to look at.

Even more importantly, Part One was anchored by three wonderful performances from three great actresses.  Susan Sarandon was heartbreaking and poignant as Marilyn’s unstable mother.  Emily Watson brought a quiet strength to the role of Marilyn’s surrogate mother, Grace.  And finally, there’s Kelli Garner in the title role.  After years of doing good work in small roles (Bully, Lars and The Real Girl), The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe finally gives Kelli Garner a chance to show what she’s capable of doing as an actress.  In part one, Garner gave a performance that both humanized an icon while also suggesting the legend that she would eventually become.

What Did Not Work?

The film’s framing device, in which Marilyn told her story to a psychologist played by Jack Noseworthy, occasionally felt a bit awkward.  Otherwise, as far as the first half of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe was concerned, it all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Obviously, I don’t want to sit here and compare myself to Marilyn Monroe.  I’ll leave that for others to do.  However, I do have to say that there were quite a few “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moments in the first part of The Secret Life Of Marilyn Monroe.  That was one reason why the film worked so well — it took an iconic figure and humanized her to the extent that anyone viewing could relate to her.

There were many moments that I related to during part one, particularly when it came to Marilyn’s emotional vulnerability and her desire to be seen as something more than just another pretty face.  In fact, there were more than a few times that I had to look away from the screen because, often, Marilyn’s pain was my pain.

Ultimately, though, the biggest “OMG!  Just like me!” moment came at the start of the film when Marilyn spent over an hour trying on different outfits before greeting the psychologist waiting in the next room.  I’m just as obsessive, especially when it comes to picking the right clothes for a doctor’s appointment.

(Seriously, I once spent an entire day putting together the perfect outfit for seeing the allergist.)

Lessons Learned

Fame can’t buy happiness but it can come awfully close.  (Of course, I have a feeling that lesson will be invalidated once I watch the second part of The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe.)