My Week With Marilyn

My Week With Marilyn featured image

November 25, 2011
Reviewed by Marc Glassman

Simon Curtis, director
Adrian Hodges, script based on two memoirs by Colin Clark: The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn
Starring: Michelle Williams (Marilyn Monroe), Kenneth Branagh (Sir Laurence Olivier), Eddie Redmayne (Colin Clark), Judi Dench (Dame Sybil Thorndike), Emma Watson (Lucy), Dougray Scott (Arthur Miller), Dominic Cooper (Milton H. Greene), Julia Ormond (Vivien Leigh), Derek Jacobi (Sir Owen Morshead), Zoe Wannamaker (Paula Strasberg), Richard Clifford (Richard Wattis)

The buzz:
Michelle Williams’ performance as Marilyn Monroe has caught the attention of media and industry insiders in the U.S. and beyond. She’s seems sure to get an Oscar nomination and many predict that Williams may beat Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher (in The Iron Lady) and garner the Best Actress Academy Award.

The genres:
Celebrity bio-pic; coming of age tale; romance

The plot:
It’s 1956 in Britain and young Colin Clark, a graduate of Eton and Oxford, lands a job as 3rd assistant director on Sir Laurence Olivier’s new film The Prince and the Showgirl. The light comedy is intended as a showcase for the leads Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, the Hollywood star and sex symbol, who wants to prove herself as a great actress under the direction of her acclaimed actor-director.

The two immediately clash over acting styles: Monroe is a believer in the intensely psychological “Method” approach while Olivier is a professional who expects actors to “get on with it” and simply perform. Meanwhile, Monroe’s honeymoon with playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman) is dramatically interrupted, when the two have a terrible fight after she reads some of his working notes/diary entries, which appear to criticize her.

Miller quickly departs for New York, effectively abandoning Marilyn to Olivier and his crew, who are angry over her chronic lateness on set, old-style Hollywood entourage and insistence on the “Method.” Desperate, Marilyn enlists the sympathetic Clark to become her friend and confidant.

For the next, magical week, Clark takes Marilyn to Eton and Buckingham Palace, cuddles her at night and even goes skinny-dipping with the great American star. He gets her to appear on set on time—occasionally. Clark becomes the envy of the rest of the British crew, including Lucy, the wardrobe girl who ends their flirtatious friendship.

Soon, it’s over: Arthur Miller comes back, the shoot is finished and Marilyn says goodbye to Clark, leaving him with unforgettable memories.

The performances:
Michelle Williams deserves all of the hype: she gives a brilliant interpretation of Marilyn, the screen goddess and Norma Jean, the sad, somewhat frightened girl. In the best scene, she’s childishly delighted when Sir Owen Morshead shows her beautiful antiquarian books from the Royal Library and then, when she meets the staff, “gives them Marilyn,” all slinky and sexy.

Kenneth Branagh should have been the ideal Olivier but he offers a superficial performance. Disappointing.

Eddie Redmayne is more than adequate as Colin Clark but he isn’t able to make the part truly memorable.

Judi Dench is superb as the gracious, funny actress Dame Sybil Thorndike and the rest of the cast of British character actors acquit themselves with grace and professionalism. As expected!

The direction:
This is the directorial debut of long-time producer Simon Curtis. The pacing of the film should have been more varied, as could the script, which he co-wrote. On the whole, this is a workman-like job.

The skinny:
See this film for Michelle Williams and the odd, true tale of Marilyn’s practically unknown British interlude. My Week With Marilyn could sparkle a bit more but audiences should be pleased with the film.

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