My Week with Marilyn (2011)
My Week with Marilyn (2011) – Oscar-bait season is here at last, and with it we get our first front-runner for Best Actress: two-time nominee Michelle Williams (though Meryl Streep has a movie about Margaret Thatcher coming up later this year so it’s too early to declare Williams the victor). Back in the days of Dawson’s Creek, I had Katie Holmes pegged as the one who would have the more dynamic career and Williams as the flavor-of-the-year who wouldn’t be remembered after the show faded from pop culture significance. Now Holmes is in a cult and more famous for her family than for the forgettable movies she’s put out the past few years and Michelle Williams continues to give great performances in indie films like Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, and now, My Week with Marilyn.
My Week with Marilyn is not a straight-up biopic of Marilyn Monroe. Rather it is an adaptation of a memoir by Colin Clark (played in this film by Eddie Redmayne). Clark pestered producers until he got a job as third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl, a lightweight comedy directed by Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Clark sucks up to Olivier and romances one of the girls in the costume department (Emma Watson), but it isn’t long before he is enraptured by the 20th century icon Monroe. Freshly married to playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), Monroe is keen to be taken seriously as an actress and has enlisted Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker) as her personal coach. Her constant lateness and inability to adapt to Olivier’s “professional” directorial style, lead to conflicts between her and the director. Olivier’s famous disdain for method acting makes their working relationship somewhat contentious.
Redmayne’s Clark comes off as a young man struck with puppy love. There is way too much of people saying how amazing Monroe is rather than just showing us. Believe me, Williams is up to the task. The small (sometimes described as “pixie-like”) Williams may seem an odd fit for the voluptuously curvy Monroe, but she captures all the mannerisms. Mannerisms alone would just be a deft impersonation though. Williams goes deeper for a moving performance. Monroe is constantly on pills and her manager, Milton (Dominic Cooper), tries to control everything she does. Meanwhile she spends the movie seeking validation. Her relationship with Clark (it’s played ambiguously just how physical it gets) stems from him seeing her the way she wants to be seen. The movie is simplistic, though surely entertaining enough on its own. Curtis’ direction doesn’t seem to bring much to the table. One wonders what this movie could have been in more seasoned hands. However Curtis does get great performances out of his cast, with Branagh as Olivier, Julia Ormand as Vivien Leigh, and a scene-stealing Dame Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike being of particular note. However, it is Williams’ performance that buoys the film to something definitely worth seeing. Check it out.