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Movie Review: My Week With Marilyn

November 25, 2011

I can hardly recall a movie that is so heavily reliant on one actor’s performance, but My Week With Marilyn is absolutely at the mercy of Michelle Williams’ depiction of Marilyn Monroe. As her performance goes, so goes the movie. Fortunately,she hits it out of the park as the troubled iconic starlet. There’s really not too much to the movie, but Williams is mesmerizing and commands your attention for the duration
of the simple tale.

In 1956, Monroe starred in The Prince and the Showgirl. The production starred Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who also directed the film. The two didn’t exactly gel on set. Olivier wouldn’t put up with Marilyn’s frequent histrionics, and in turn, Marilyn resented him. This led to escalated tension on the set, and wildly vacillating mood swings from Marilyn, which further complicated the filming. During the tumultuous situation, Marilyn turned to Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a glorified gofer for the film. His wide eyed innocence and non insider status appeared to be attractive qualities to Marilyn, and Colin quickly became friend, confidante and companion to the bombshell, albeit for a brief time.  Colin’s memoir “My Week With Marilyn” was adapted for the film.

For those pining away for the golden age of film the movie is a lot of fun. Julia Ormand plays Vivien Leigh (Olivier’s wife) and Branagh is fantastic as the famed actor and director. My Week With Marilyn harkens back to when actors were trotted out by studios  as true stars,  but the tragic undertone of the movie depicts
Marilyn as a mere commodity, treated no better than a prize-winning thoroughbred horse. Her handlers dope her up to get her on set every day, giving little regard to the consequences of constantly drugging their money maker. It’s horribly sad, and this trend seems to have survived to modern times in show business. Every few months we hear of an unfortunate death of someone in the business who was surrounded by “yes men” and enablers. Marilyn was not seen as a living, breathing human being, she was just a means to an end, and that end was profit.

It’s little wonder that Colin was such a comfort to Marilyn. He had yet to be corrupted by the Hollywood machine,and as such he was trust worthy. What a novelty for this woman who was immersed in notoriety and greed. Their relationship in the movie is sweet, simple, and heartfelt.  It’s the antithesis of what Marilyn’s real life was like, though I would posit that Marilyn manipulates Colin to some degree with her sexuality. It’s really all she knows.

Back when it was announced that Williams had been cast in the role, I had serious doubts. She’s a gifted actress,but how could a tiny waif step into the shoes of the curvaceous Monroe? Williams hardly personifies sexy, but damn if she doesn’t pull it off. Her performance is the reason to see the film. Her walk, talk, hair and makeup are impeccable, but her acting skills allow her to capture the vulnerability of Monroe.  Rather than merely imitating the icon, Williams becomes her. It’s uncanny, and I won’t doubt the gal again. Williams elevates a ho-hum story into “must see to believe” status.

Redmayne (who appeared in the underrated Black Death earlier this year) does a fine job as well, and will likely be catapulted into leading man status as a direct result of this film. Emma Watson, Judi Dench and Dominic Cooper and Dougray Scott round out a strong supporting cast.

Temper your expectations for My Week With Marilyn. It’s not so much a romance as a character study, and Williams will simply blow you away.

Rating 4/5

My Week With Marilyn is rated R. Directed by Simon Curtis. Written by Adrian Hodges and Colin Clark. Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Judi Dench, Dougray Scott.


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