Who was Marilyn Monroe? Actress, singer, sex symbol … sure. But who was she really? An insecure and fragile lost little girl, a manipulative genius, a manic depressive pill popper, or some combination of the three?
All I know is that she’s the focus of a new fantastic film, “My Week with Marilyn.”
The movie, based on a book with the same name, tells the true story of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a young twenty-something who dreams of a career in the movie business. Through a family connection, he’s hired by Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) as the Third Assistant Director (a.k.a.. gofer) for his upcoming production of “The Sleeping Prince” (later titled “The Prince and the Showgirl”) starring Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) in 1956.
Clark is wide-eyed, freckle-faced and like the rest of the world, in awe of Monroe. The film follows the production of the film from Clark’s perspective, including Olivier’s disputes with Monroe and her team of handlers as well as Clark’s own relationship with the starlet.
I can not say enough wonderful things about this film, which is rare for me. There’s no real plot to speak of, it’s just one English boy’s account of meeting his American movie star crush. The film relies solely on the actors and their ability to embody the icons they’re portraying. If you buy them, you buy the film.
And every single one of them is brilliant.
Besides Monroe and Olivier, the film is filled with other notable names such as Miss Scarlett O’Hara herself Vivian Leigh (Julia Ormond) and “Death of a Salesman” playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). Judi Dench also gives an outstanding supporting performance as British acting legend Sybil Thorndike.
This was a different role for Dench. She usually plays harsh, grump old ladies that kind of scare me. Here, she gives Thorndike a softer, more grandmother-like quality. I just wanted to give her a hug and make cookies with her. Is that weird?
Other supporting actors include: Toby Jones, as Monroe’s publicist, is crass and foul-mouthed but knows how to get the right kind of press for his client. Dominic Cooper, Monroe’s manager, who wants to protect Monroe while he tries to smooth the waters between her and Olivier. And a post-Potter Emma Watson, as a wardrobe assistant who can’t keep Clark’s attention.
The entire supporting cast play their parts perfectly, but it’s Branagh and Williams that really steal the show.
Branagh seems to have been emulating Olivier his entire career; the similarities are a bit eerie. Such as, both starred and/or directed different adaptions of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” “As You Like It,” and “Richard III” and both played the lead role in different versions of “Othello” and “Henry V.” Branagh embodies Olivier and his thinly veiled contempt for Monroe and her on-set antics while still being in awe of her beauty and raw talent.
But what is a movie about Marilyn Monroe without Marilyn Monroe. The part had to be cast just right and Williams is a perfect fit. She not only captured the look but also the essence of the blonde beauty. Roger Ebert describes her performance best in his review on rogerebert.com, “She evokes so many Marilyns, public and private, real and make-believe. We didn’t know Monroe, but we believe she must have been something like his.”
I’ve only seen a handful of Marilyn movies, but there were times when I forgot I wasn’t watching the actual actress. Williams is completely lost into the character. She is Monroe, in her mannerisms, delivery, and spirit.
“My Week with Marilyn” captures a moment in movie-making history. It transports the audience back to a different era. No one may know who Marilyn really was, but this film offers a short glimpse into the life of a smart, yet troubled, young women, whose legend will never die.
- Unsexing Marilyn Monroe | Lee Siegel (guardian.co.uk)
- MOVIES: ‘My Week With Marilyn’ is an acting tour-de-force (kitsapsun.com)