Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Week with Marilyn

By s. Saturday, February 18, 2012 , , , , , , , ,
53/100 (99 min, 2011)
Plot: Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
Director: Simon Curtis
Writers: Adrian Hodges, Colin Clark (books)
Stars: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh

"What it must be like to be the most famous woman in the world?"

"My Week with Marilyn" is a dull movie with very good performance, but apart from Michelle Williams's work there is really not much to admire here. Marilyn Monroe's life - and death - are the things that fascinate people to this day. Out of all the events in her life Simon Curtis chose her time during shooting of "The Prince and the Showgirl" to be the subject of his film. While the movie shows many interesting events, its the storytelling - from the perspective of a young man who desperately wants to be a part of a movie business - is one of its biggest problems.

Colin is a rich boy who loves films - all he wants is to get inside this fascinating world of motion pictures and because of his parents' connections and money he gets a job as a third assistant to the director in Laurence Olivier's movie studio. The problem is that Colin is the dullest character in the film yet he is the main hero here, not Monroe, not Olivier, not Olivier's wife - fascinating Vivien Leigh.
Whenever we see events in Colin's life the movie is at its worst - not even charming supporting characters played by lovely Judi Dench and the brightest of Harry Potter's young stars Emma Watson - can make the scenes enjoyable. What makes matters worse is that Colin is not interesting nor especially likable and Redmayne who portrays him has absolutely no on screen presence or charisma. So during those scenes we eagerly expect Branagh's Olivier and especially Williams's Monroe to enter the frame.

Williams's has this amazing luminous shine about her - she is delicate, subtle and lovable. While real Monroe was certainly more beautiful, Williams gets everything right - from her seductive gestures through her beautiful smile to her sexy voice. She is able to create amazing performance despite poor script and quite dull story. There are plenty of scenes here that show Monroe's issues - the fact she was horribly insecure and used people around her, unknowingly, because she felt better when they told her how amazing she is and of course - her pill addiction which ultimately led her to her death. In a sense Monroe was poisoned by people's words - despite being completely adored all around the world, her dream was to become great actress, but because she was so fragile she was unable to find the strength and passion within her to become something more than lovable beauty who dances in sexy way and charms everyone by playing silly, pretty girls.
The script hints at many things but the writer doesn't have the guts to make definitive statements - many people say Monroe is using Colin but we never see any evidence of that - we see her cry, we see her being sad but we never see her as a manipulator - she is more of a girl who is oblivious to the effects her behaviour has on the outside world. It is only because of Williams's work that her Marilyn feels like such a complete character - all Williams has to do is smile or whisper something and we get a glimpse of Monroe's soul. The most fascinating scenes are not the ones where we see her being vulnerable - it is when we see that despite her massive issues she is able to charm everyone around her, making jokes, smiling, while hiding the overwhelming sadness that resides inside.

"My week with Marilyn" has impressive cast but most of the actors is horribly underused - Dench is doing what she can with her character, the only person who actually tries to lift Marilyn's spirit when nobody believes in her on the set. Vivian Leigh's character is barely even in the movie, which is a big shame. She is played by lovely Julia Ormond who manages to make memorable appearance out of - virtually - nothing. And then there is Branagh who is fantastic as Laurence Olivier - he never fades under Williams's glow and he brings a lot of wit and liveliness to a lifeless film.
There is also Jim Carter here, straight from playing Carson in "Downton Abbey" who brings a lot of humour to two scenes he is in. Geraldine Somerville, who played Lily Potter in famous series is also here - as Colin's mother, in I believe also two scenes. The parade of Potter actors also includes Zoë Wanamaker, who plays Paula Strasberg, Monroe's acting coach who successfully toys with her, leading her to believe she is an incredible actress which ultimately leads to Monroe being even more hurt and heartbroken by her failed attempts at acting. Dominic Cooper always feels out of place for me - and it's nto different here - he plays Monroe's previous boy toy and currently her assistant who tries to prevent Colin from seeing Marilyn.

The movie has quite skill full editing - particularly in the scenes where Monroe is surrounded by her adoring fans and photographers eager to take pictures of her. The hysteria that dwells within them and the eventual fear that Monroe feels is captured here in a splendid way. The cinematography is quite unexceptional, apart from few moments - mostly the ones where we see Marilyn performing on the set. There is also a lovely score, which while not one of the best from last year, manages to create nice, subtle accompaniment to Williams's delicate work. The best technical aspect of the movie are set pieces and costumes that truly transport us back in time.
"My Week with Marilyn" successfully takes us to the time when Monroe was the World's biggest star but it doesn't take us into her life - all we see are scattered flashes of her, different points of view and very underwhelming story that is not even close to being one of the most interesting events in her life. Williams's work is splendid but both her and the real Monroe deserved more - better script and definitely a much better movie.


  1. It sounds like it's too bad that it doesn't focus more on Marilyn in particular, though the concept itself doesn't sound so bad :) I will see this eventually just for Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh - there are some stills I've seen where she looks so much like Monroe it's scary!
    Great write up!!

    1. Oh yeah, there are certain moments, especially on the set on Prince and the Showgirl where she looks just like real Monroe.

  2. I though the movie was good, not very dramatic, but entertaining in some parts, and I thought Eddie Redmayne was ok, not that bad as you said (he does have some charisma, and he is a handsome guy, with nice features, you have to agree to that). Michelle Williams was, indeed, wonderful, and I thought she brought a lot of things to the role and made it better- you sure can tell she tried her best to be Marilyn!

    1. Williams gave everything she had to act, too bad the writers didn't when they were writing the script. I just don't find that guy handsome, I don't know, maybe it's just that he is so horribly far from being my type :)

  3. Sounds like the Colin character really ruined this for you. I liked it a lot more, but perhaps because the glimpses felt more real to me, like what a kid his age would remember about meeting someone famous. More of a "what we remember about Marilyn" than the actual Marilyn herself.

    I do think that this is one of Wiliams' best performances to date, though, and was really glad to see her get so many critics awards for her work.

    1. The script ruined it, I thought it could be much better if it was more focused. Williams was wonderful, can't wait to see what she does next.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

  4. I agree with everything you said. I think this movie was completely underwhelming and Williams' performance deserved to be in a much better movie. Oh well, she'll get her Oscar someday.

    1. Thanks! I really can't believe how messy the whole thing was, it's like they cut up 5 different movies and placed it in one reel.