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During the height of her career in the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe
headed to Britain to shoot the comedy that would become known as The
Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Olivier. The two clashed on the
film set, as is relayed to us by assistant director and My Week with Marilyn’s main focus (ironically) Colin Clark. Olivier
wanted to become a movie star, and Monroe strived to be taken seriously as an actor.
Monroe studied “Stanislavsky’s system” – in common terms, method acting – with the help of Paula Strasberg in her aim for seriousness in
cinema. Meanwhile, Olivier hired Monroe because she was famous and wanted her
to “be sexy” in his movie. In their attempts to fulfill their true cinematic desires,
they were never able to truly get along.
That’s the movie that could have been. However, we get just the
occasional glimpse of that interesting conflict, as a supposed romance between
Clark and Monroe takes center stage. There’s surely some fun to be had, and
while we do get an extraordinary leading turn from Michelle Williams, Simon
Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn ends up
being a flimsy trifle that doesn’t end up saying anywhere near as much as it aims to say.
As naturally and refreshingly as Eddie Redmayne inhabits the
role of memoir scribe Colin Clark, Adrian Hodges’ screenplay embarrassingly
ricochets between the odd romance of sorts between Clark and Monroe and the
happenings on the set of “Showgirl,” with occasional moments focusing on the
rather uninteresting Clark.
Hodges has glimpses of brilliance here and there for sure,
mostly as Monroe and Branagh battle back and forth while shooting scenes for
the comedy. However, such potential dims with a lack of distinct focus or
linearity; it grows ever darker when Clark becomes the central focus. Seeing as the film is based on his memoir, it happens quite a bit.
Although the writing is flimsy, the most
crucial matter here is the iconic actress of the title. Marilyn Monroe
was an actress, but she was more than that. She was someone bigger than
herself, someone to whom there is no modern equivalent. The casting of Williams
seemed a bit odd at first, mainly because she’s notable for roles in indie
flicks than the glitz and glamour most associate with Monroe. However, by the
time it’s all over, you realize that Williams does something incredible: She
inhabits and becomes Marilyn Monroe. It’s something that actresses who lack her
natural sensibilities and skills could do, even if they physically resemble
Monroe all the way down to her eleven toes. In the way of natural strokes, Williams
is funny and whimsy, overly dramatic and tragic, just like Monroe herself.
But the other actors aren’t without their merits as well. Branagh fiercely resonates with an appropriately showy performance as Olivier. Dame Judi Dench turns in a light and humorous work as a
fellow actress, Dame Sybill Thorndike. Emma Watson, with just a small role,
proves that she’ll be able to spin movie magic without the aid of Hogwarts as a girl working in the costume
My Week with Marilyn
dazzles and entertains, and never leaves you longing for remarkable scenery or
gorgeous costumes. However, behind that façade, there isn’t much worth praising
aside from a hauntingly brilliant performance from Williams as the blond
My Week with Marilyn
Directed by Simon Curtis
Written by Adrian Hodges (screenplay), Colin Clark (memoir)
Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh