My Week With Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe is such an iconic figure in the history of movies that it almost seems an impossible task to play her.  While there are some shaky moments, Michelle Williams comes as close as anyone I’ve seen in “recreating” the wonder that was Marilyn Monroe. Let me clear up that last statement.  Michelle Williams turns in a great performance in a role that easily could have declined into caricature. It is the script and direction that is not up to the snuff that is her performance.

To begin with I’m not sure about the value of the story. What was the need for it to be told? What is its message? A window into Marilyn? A story of a young man falling in love for the first time? An exercise to see if an actress could recreate the magic the Miss Monroe possessed? A character study? It is all rather vague as to the purpose of the whole exercise.

Simple and vague.  Kind of all over the place a little. And even pointless at times. These are all statement that can be used to describe the story behind this film. More like a movie of the week than a big screen film.  Starts off with some piss and vinegar or at least some pace and then screeches to a halt with all the melodrama.  It also does well with the Marilyn as little girl lost parts but never shows the other side of the woman. She was tough and quick witted.  That side is somehow lost in the shuffle.

The week the title alludes to is the one which Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne – The Good Shepherd, The Other Boleyn Girl) worked as third assistant director (basically a gofer) on the film The Prince and the Showgirl starring Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh – Hamlet, Valkyrie) and the luminous Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams – Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine). Marilyn was the biggest film star in the world at the time and Sir Laurence Olivier was a respected stage actor who was trying to become a movie star.

Marilyn had just recently married author Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott – Mission: Impossible 2, Hitman) but already the marriage was showing cracks. Though she was loved by millions and lusted after by all men, Marilyn was incredibly unsure of herself.  The neediness and lack of confidence in her abilities as an actress were there throughout her career.  This led to much champagne drinking, pill taking, frequent conferring with her acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Wilde), numerous takes, and her infamous inability to be on time. Right from the beginning we see that Monroe and Olivier were not a match made in heaven. And that all the protective people around her like Strasberg, Milton Greene (Dominic Cooper – The History Boys, The Devil’s Double), and Colin was enable her and infuriate Olivier.  Over a short period of time Marilyn begins to really rely on Colin and a special relationship between the two is formed.

At the end of it all the film seems to simply be a vehicle to allow Michelle Williams exhibit her extensive acting skills. She is of a different body type than Marilyn but she replicated her breathy voice and movements very well.  All of the unhappiness, conflict and despair Marilyn felt are there alongside the adoration of the spotlight. A complex and conflicted character.

What she could not replicate was the way that people said that Monroe burned up the screen.  Williams is attractive but not sexy. Though she does give us a window into how Marilyn was able to turn it off and on herself. This is demonstrated in a scene where she is playing hooky from the set with Colin and encounters a group of fans.  When they gather around her she turns to Colin and asks him, “Shall I be her?” In this film Williams never turns it off as she comes as close as anyone has been able to in embodying Marilyn Monroe.

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