Friday, November 25, 2011

My Week With Marilyn

Seven Days In The Waters Of Mystique And Iconography

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis's drama "My Week With Marilyn". 
The Weinstein Company


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
ay, November 25, 2011

"My Week With Marilyn" both sparkles and underwhelms as a cinematic memoir of Colin Clark, an assistant on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier's film "The Prince And The Showgirl", which starred Mr. Oliver and Marilyn Monroe, an ingénue with brightness, charm and oodles of talent, sex appeal and mystery to boot.  Simon Curtis's film tells the story of the missing week in Mr. Clark's diary memoir The Prince, The Showgirl, And Me -- his week spent with Ms. Monroe in the summer of 1956 during the making of Mr. Olivier's film. 

Ms. Monroe had her hands full in the summer of 1956 -- she was also on her honeymoon with new husband Arthur Miller.  Whatever conjecture and speculation some may have about the accuracy or veracity of Mr. Clark's diaries, one undeniable thing is that Mr. Curtis showcases Marilyn Monroe as American showbiz royalty in pageantry-like fashion.  We get to learn that Ms. Monroe is as she was: an indefinable yet intelligent, sexy, charismatic and endlessly riveting entity.

Michelle Williams gives a career-making (and Oscar worthy) performance as Monroe, evoking the mystique, vulnerability, sauciness, sensuality and pain of the legendary actress icon.  Ms. Williams doesn't necessarily look like Ms. Monroe, but no matter; it's the essence, the unattainable and fascinating enigma that was Norma Jean Mortenson that the actress conveys so impeccably.  Ms. Monroe was not just all looks.  There was a depth to her that was apparent but all-too-often dismissed.  Ms. Williams taps into that depth superbly.  As a blonde bombshell Ms. Monroe was initially not taken seriously by critics and Hollywood types and in some early film work used the "bimbo" effect in comedic roles before really showing off her acting chops in more serious fare like "Don't Bother To Knock", "Niagara" and many other films.

The greatest part of Ms. Williams' work in "My Week With Marilyn" is when she plays a difficult and dependent Monroe-as-"Showgirl" character.  She uses saucy innocence and coy, kittenish charm to bring the versatile and misunderstood megastar to life, displaying unabashed zeal in the process.  All of Ms. Monroe's insecurities, secrets and guilty pleasures are laid bare on the big screen with a joy that is infectious and engaging.  We gain some insight into a wide-eyed personality brimming with talent, and Ms. Williams is mesmerizing as she lets us in only so far beneath the surface to Marilyn Monroe's loneliness and isolation.  As an actress Michelle Williams can take us anywhere ("Brokeback Mountain", "Wendy And Lucy", "Blue Valentine", "Meek's Cutoff") and effortlessly, and here she does so once again.  Ms. Williams also sings all of Ms. Monroe's songs in the film, and beautifully.

While "My Week With Marilyn" is dwarfed by Ms. Williams' wonderful work, there are good supporting turns in a great all-star cast, most notably by Kenneth Branagh as the perfectionist Olivier, who learns to endure his rising, talented star as she translates her flaws into fantastic results on the set of "Prince".  Mr. Branagh is entertaining and crusty as the flustered and exacting Olivier.  He simply wants the takes for the scenes in his production to run smoothly.  (By the way, Ms. Monroe won acclaim for her work in Olivier's "Showgirl".)  Eddie Redmayne is also very good as 23-year-old Colin Clark, as is Dominic Cooper ("The Devil's Double", "An Education") as Milton Greene.

What Mr. Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges get right in "My Week With Marilyn" is the relationship between Mr. Clark and Ms. Monroe, in both its tone and feeling.  The relationship plays as a coming-of-age story, not just for Mr. Clark but also for the growth of Ms. Monroe.  Both are benefitted by those magical seven days.  It's the film's most mature, tender and revealing episode.  Unfortunately, it's the rest of the film, with its poor pacing, that falls mostly flat with peripheral affairs, including Mr. Clark's budding romance with Lucy (Emma Watson), which is predictable and operates as filler until the main event of the film takes flight.  The flight however, takes too long to get off the ground, and by the time it does the journey and the film are virtually over.

With: Julia Ormond, Zöe Wanamaker, Judi Dench, Toby Jones, Dougray Scott, Derek Jacobi.

"My Week With Marilyn" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some language.  There is also nudity.  The film's running time is one hour and 39 minutes.

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