6.1/10
2,349
41 user 3 critic

Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996)

This film follows Norma Jean from her simple, ambitious youth to her superstar pinnacle and back down. She moves from lover to lover in order to further her career. She finds fame but never happiness, only knowing seduction but not love.

Director:

Writers:

(book),
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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Norma Jean Dougherty
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Eddie Jordan
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Arthur Miller
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Joe DiMaggio
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Fred Karger
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Darryl Zanuck
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Billy Wilder
Dana Goldstone ...
Lee Strasberg
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Mozelle Hyde
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Natasha Lytess
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Milton Krasner
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Commissary Photographer
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Preacher
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Storyline

In this film, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino portray two sides of the woman America loved, but who struggled to love herself: Marilyn Monroe. To the world, Marilyn was a vivacious superstar, the epitome of sexuality, sensuality and frolicsome amusement. Every man wanted her - every woman wanted to be her. But behind the enticing smile, beneath the tight-fitting dresses, there was a dark secret - one Marilyn could not bury in the past... the child inside named Norma Jean. Everything Norma Jean dreams of, Marilyn achieves. Every man she struggles to resist, Marilyn succumbs to. And while Marilyn climbs the ladder to success, Norma Jean was beneath it, almost willing her to fall. Written by HBO Home Video

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Marilyn Monroe was our fantasy. Norma Jean was her reality.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexual content and nudity, some substance abuse and strong language | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

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Language:

Release Date:

18 May 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Norma Jean and Marilyn  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Goofs

When "Marilyn" backs up and runs over "Norma Jean", the car has a 1952 license plate. Theoretically this should have happened years earlier. See more »

Quotes

Marilyn Monroe: Oh, no, Johnny, you need your rest.
Johnny Hyde: I'll get my rest when I'm dead, which is going to be sooner rather than later. You know that, Marilyn.
See more »

Connections

Features Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) See more »

Soundtracks

William Tell Overture
Composed by Gioachino Rossini
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User Reviews

More to it than you might think
9 August 2002 | by See all my reviews

I feel a need to defend this movie, at least against the charges that it doesn't present accurate characterizations of Marilyn Monroe. First of all, for someone to decide that Mira Sorvino plays Marilyn as an extension of her screen persona and not as she "really was" is specious at best. The way public figures behave off-camera isn't exactly something we as an audience can make a decision on. You don't know what happens behind those closed doors. That's why they're closed, so you can't see what's going on.

But, really, that's beside the point. Whether or not Marilyn was truly like Sorvino plays her isn't really an issue. The surreal qualities of Norma Jean & Marilyn give ample indication that the filmmakers had no intention to go out and make a straightforward biopic. What they have in mind here is more complex. As heavy-handed as it may be, the symbolism is the real focus of the movie. Marilyn Monroe had two identities, and Sorvino and Ashley Judd go to great pains to illustrate in no uncertain terms that these two identities were in conflict with one another. The very different characterizations aren't saying that Marilyn was two different people. They are simply a case of filmmakers taking dramatic license to exaggerate something for the sake of making it clearer: Norma Jean Dougherty reinvented herself in her mind as someone who could get what she couldn't get herself. Try not to think of this film as a study of Monroe's outward change from Norma Jean to Marilyn. Think of it as more of a look inside her head, as an analysis of all the motives and frustrations bouncing around in her mind, and ultimately serving to identify her more than any physical appearances could ever do. It doesn't matter whether or not she really saw the word "Bourbon" and read it as "Bonbon." As the film lays it out, this is her image of herself, and in reflex, everyone else's image of her.

And then there are those who will complain that it isn't right to speculate on someone's image of herself. But you can't ask a film to stick completely to facts. Conjecture is what makes nonfiction interesting. And it is what makes Norma Jean & Marilyn interesting.

On the acting and in response to those who see the film as "soapy" and "campy": Life is a soap opera. Most of us are able to keep that at bay and live life as a perfectly reasonable chain of events. But desperate people historically are not able to do that. Drama is what they have, and drama is how they can get results. Marilyn, as the film puts it (and remember, you need to always look at a film like this on its own merits, especially when it doesn't portray itself as factual, which this one emphatically does not) is one of these desperate people, and the script respects that as a mean to that untimely end. Mira Sorvino's performance understands this. Yes, it's pretty wooden at first, but by the time she sings Happy Birthday to President Kennedy, hopped up on her crutch of barbituates and alcohol, her Marilyn has become fully realized in the downward spiral that will eventually take her life. Coupled with Ashley Judd's commanding performance as the girl who can only get what she wants by becoming someone else, and Sorvino's performance makes a full, tragic character, keeping to that perception of Marilyn Monroe as the eternal blonde bombshell legend.


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