Saturday, April 22, 2017

Goodbye, Norma Jean (1976)

It’s hard to avoid being salacious when telling the Marilyn Monroe story. She was raped, she posed for nude photos on multiple occasions, she traded sexual favors for career opportunities, and so on. The challenge for those dramatizing her life is to integrate sensational elements tastefully—in other words, to avoid the path taken by bottom-feeding hack Larry Buchanan while making Goodbye, Norma Jean. Starring onetime Hee-Haw honey Misty Rowe, this picture is a compendium of titillating vignettes, as if young Norma Jean Baker spent every waking moment of her life fending off unsolicited advances, then took control of her destiny by becoming the equivalent of prostitute, exchanging sex for screen tests until she finally won a legitimate role. There’s a grain of truth in that version of events, but Buchanan’s storyline is so simplistic and tacky as to be profoundly offensive. A sure sign of how little Buchanan cares about historical accuracy is the fact that Rowe has bright blonde hair throughout the movie, even though Norma Jean spent many of her pre-fame years as a brunette. Yet perhaps the saddest thing about Goodbye, Norma Jean is that it’s relatively watchable. The curvaceous Rowe appears naked in many scenes, and the storyline moves along at a brisk pace as Norma Jean leaves home, builds alliances, and suffers through one casting-couch nightmare after another until making her dreams of stardom come true. Moreover, the public’s enduring fascination with Monroe’s tragic life grants Goodbye, Norma Jean the illusion of relevance. Yet this is unquestionably a sleazefest disguised as a biopic, so even though Goodbye, Norma Jean is competently filmed and has the occasional resonant moment, the picture demonstrates that the indignities Monroe suffered did not end with her death; movies like this one prolong an ugly cycle of objectification and violation.

Goodbye, Norma Jean: LAME

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