My Week With Marilyn (2011)

Eager to make it in the film business despite his parents’ flippant disregard of his planned profession, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) leaves his country estate for London, using his family ties to secure a job – voluntary at first – at Pinewood Studios. Working with Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) on the set of his film The Prince And The Showgirl, Clark takes the role of third assistant director and begins a relationship with a costume girl, Lucy (Emma Watson), before finding himself witlessly drawn into the backstage drama when difficult superstar Marylin Monroe (Michelle Williams) takes a liking to him. Falling in love, Clark recounts his few days as the centre of Marilyn’s word, as he catches a fleeting glimpse of the woman behind the celebrity.

My Week With Marilyn is the perfect title for a number of reasons. Alluding to the icon rather than the woman trapped within her, it foreshadows the film’s prefered level of operation beautifully. While Michelle Williams’ performance as Marilyn is indeed accomplished, and flits masterfully between the icon’s numerous personae, it rarely even begins to scratch the surface. Always pre-empting a performance, ready to play up for the cameras, there is a decided shallowness to the star which matches the overall tone of the piece. Forever acting, drugged or simply drunk, there is little sense by film’s end that you finally have a grasp on the enigma that is Norma Jean.

Don’t get me wrong, Williams is nothing short of revelatory, much to the chagrin of Branagh’s Olivier. While not exactly a happy role, it is nice to see the actress shed her accumulated cinematic baggage for a relatively whimsical and occasionally comedic turn as cinema’s ultimate sex symbol. Despite its lighter moments, Williams nevertheless manages to bring more than her physical similarities to the part, by turns victim, brand, and the most irritating woman on set.

In such a heavyweight battle, with Branagh’s take on Lawrence Olivier proving every bit a nuanced and well observed as Williams’ irrepressible sexuality and , it would be easy to overlook the self-confessed nobody caught in the middle of the infamous personality clash. While Williams and Branagh give two stand-out performances, this is still very much Eddie Redmayne’s story. From buttoned up country-boy to third assistant director slumming it in a B&B, it is Redmayne’s Colin Clark who undergoes the film’s biggest – and perhaps only – transformation.

While otherwise not necessarily brimming with memorable characters, Pinewood Studios is reliably stocked with talented actors. Whether it’s Zoë Wanamaker’s method mentor, Dominic Cooper’s jealous business partner or Dougray Scott’s prematurely afflicted husband, playwright Arthur Miller, the central relationships are complemented with a number of capable turns, nurturing a quietly insidious atmosphere as Monroe is manipulated from all quarters. Judi Dench and Emma Watson are the only two who really manage to bring any depth to their supporting roles, with both ultimately feeling desperately underutilised.

You’re never going to get to know someone intimately in just a week of their company, much less in an hour and thirty-six minutes. That said, Williams does a commendable job of exploring the many faces of Marilyn Monroe without compromising the film’s wistful tone. Casting capable actors is only half of the battle, however, and Simon Curtis’ film struggles to transcend its light air impromtu intimacy, the story unrefined and burdened with the unfortunate – if authentic – feel of a loved-up young man’s gushing memoirs.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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