Friday, June 7, 2013

Adoption Movie Review - HBO Documentary "Love Marilyn"

HBO’s two-hour documentary, “Love Marilyn,” debuts on Monday, June 17 at 9:00 PM. It’s a gripping and impactful study of Marilyn Monroe’s life, illustrated by text from recently-discovered diary entries. It covers the span of her years and paints her with a sympathetic, positive, and sometimes slightly defensive brush, while providing deep insight into her private thought life and feelings. 
Monroe developed a persona which brought her fame, but which may have kept her from knowing her true self. She was underestimated by directors and given stereotypical roles.  She was scapegoated by studios, and sensationalized by the media (who had a field-day with a “sex goddess” with fertility struggles.) She was famous, successful, driven and troubled. As the documentary highlights, she “created a myth of what a poor girl from a deprived background could attend.” But while she created a strong persona, she struggled to find her true identity and to embrace her own worth.
Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson. Her father abandoned her at a very early age, and her mother was unable to care for her; Monroe was raised in a series of foster homes and orphanages. Even as she found success and fame, her diary shows her inner thought life in her ongoing struggle for identity and self-acceptance.  She focused on excelling in her craft:

“ I have nothing to hold on to but the present.”
“For me to live decently and productively, I must work.”
“I want to improve – more than I want men, money, or love”
“Love is the most important thing that ever happens to us, but work is a kind of love.”

But, the documentary notes, she felt unfulfilled, even as she found success.

“I am alone. I am always alone. No matter what.”

She assessed herself to counteract her self-criticism, but acknowledged the difficulty in doing so.
I remember “When I couldn’t do a thing, and then trying to bring myself up with the fact that I’ve done things right, with moments that were good or even excellent. But the bad is heavier to carry around.”

She struggled with self-doubt, was surprised when people treated her kindly, quick to feel guilt, and sensitive to criticism. She also found true friends, looked toward the future with hope, and tried to learn as much as she could. Unfortunately, she died in an apparent suicide at age 36.

As I reflect on the film, I remember many of the foster children I worked with. Some struggled to prove their worth – to others and to themselves. Many were quick to seek attachment and acceptance from people who mistreated them. Many thrived, loved learning, and pushed themselves to excel, without pushing too hard. Marilyn Monroe went through all of this. “Love Marilyn” is a thought-provoking film, and worth your time on June 17. As you watch it, maybe you’ll wonder, as I do, how powerful it would have been for her to have several people consistently speak kindness into her life with no other motivation than to be kind, for no other reason than her inherent worth as a person. Then go and do that for the people in your life. 

Just a note – some parents will find some content objectionable for younger viewers. Marilyn posed for nude photos, and one or two of them are shown, there’s also some rough language. Marilyn is also referred to in one excerpted reading as an “illegitimate” child.  Also, if you're looking for other films that provide insight into the life and thoughts of someone who has been through foster care, check out CLOSURE, a recent documentary about a transracial adoptee from foster care journeying to find her birthfamily.

Check the trailer out here:

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