My Week With Marilyn


This Simon Curtis directed film about Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe’s involvement with one of the crew –third assistant director or more accurately gofer-during the film shoot for The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956 is an entertaining insight into the star at the pinnacle of her powers and success. Michelle Williams gives a star performance as Monroe; one which is probably the best portrayal of this actress who had such an indefinable quality that no-one, despite many attempts, has ever been able to capture the essence of what made her so very special. Williams succeeds on many levels and whilst this is the films main strength  Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier ably supports her and their onscreen chemistry is greater than their real life counterparts.

Ostensibly it should have been a happy time in Monroe’s life having just married celebrated playwright Arthur Miller and embarking on a project with British theatre royalty Laurence Olivier. In reality it was merely the beginning of the downward spiral that culminated in her death, still shrouded in mystery and myth, six years later. This film concentrates on the fact that her relationship with Miller was already in crisis whilst her working life alongside Olivier was faring little better and probably even worse as he found her working ‘methods’ intolerable and at one point huffs that ‘teaching her to act is like teaching a badger to speak Urdu’. Enter Colin Clark (Eddie Remayne) a well to do clean cut young man who wants to make it in the film industry and through family connections ends up working with Olivier. Befriending Marilyn on set and in her darker moments he forms a close bond with her after Miller abdicates his duties and ‘abandons’ her to fly back to the states in order to see his children. It is this week that lends the film its title though it is never clear how far their relationship progressed and there really is no need for such a sense of propriety in a 2011 film even if it is set in the still sexually uptight 1950’s. This reticence is not apparent in Williams’ performance however. The usual Monroe trademarks are all over the film from her luminous, platinum incandescence through to the wiggle, pout, the booze and the many pills. It is an over familiar story though and any Monroe fan will feel disappointed in the fact there are no new revelations although to a younger generation it may introduce Marilyn to a whole new audience.

The cinematography on the film is excellent and combined with the camera work it does a great job of evoking the era it is attempting to portray. On occasion it does feel like a tour guide of beautiful England what with thatched cottages and Windsor Castle both getting a look in. Likewise the supporting cast seems to have been drafted in from Luvvie Central. Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Zoe Wannamaker and Doug Ray Scott and Emma Watson are all present and correct. At other times it seems that the film has its sights set on a few of the accolades garnered by The Kings Speech and Williams must surely be a contender for best actress but as a whole the film sometimes feels a little too like a BBC period drama to be a attract those kind of awards. Despite this it is still an extremely well made and enjoyable film that perfectly captures both the era and the star at the centre of the maelstrom she created on her visit to these shores.

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