There are so many sides to the one and only Marilyn Monroe: dynamic entertainer, glamorous vixen, troubled human being. The film My Week With Marilyn manages to uncover all of these facets and more in a short period of time and through the eyes of a young man who became fascinated by her. A bit limited, but star performances in a polished period setting in London will have audiences awestruck.
Based on the memoir The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me, this fluffy real life-based drama comes from Colin Clark’s documented experiences as a third assistant director on Sir Laurence Olivier’s 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl. The sparkly-eyed and innocent Colin (Eddie Redmayne) is persistent in pursuing his interests in film and is let on board by Laurence (Kenneth Branagh) and his team as a special assistant to the star and director himself for the production of The Prince and the Showgirl. Naturally, everyone on set as well as all of England is mesmerized by Marilyn (Michelle Williams)’s participation in the film, who arrives with her playwright husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). Colin appears taken back by Laurence’s strong nature but gets along well with him and others on set. However, he seems shy and intimidated when in the presence of Marilyn and her striking beauty. All the while. he observes how nervous and insecure she is when preparing for and filming her scenes, and how Laurence clashes with her professionally. But it’s not too long until Colin and Marilyn develop a unique friendship and Colin sees that there is more to her than being beautiful and talented. Other key players in the film are portrayed by Judi Dench, Julia Ormond, Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, and Derek Jacobi.
Though it is billed as a drama—and Marilyn’s life was full of it, without a doubt—My Week With Marilyn offers much delight and comedy. Whether it’s in Colin awkwardly interacting with anyone, Marilyn being at her happiest and most flirtatious, or just Laurence being pompous, it’ll have theaters in laughter. One person who definitely deserves a lot of credit for bringing some of that light into this film is Branagh, whose own classical training seems applicable and advantageous to his outstanding portrayal of Sir Laurence. He was such an out-there character even offscreen and Branagh conveys this perfectly and with crazy strength. It’s quite a presence but an oddly enjoyable one.
Of course, this is another blog that can attest to Williams’ buzzed-about performance as Marilyn. Williams has proven time and time again that she’s a remarkable actress, but becoming Marilyn is a tough challenge for anyone and most of the time, it comes off merely as a mockery by wannabes—that is not the case for Williams. No one can ever replace Marilyn Monroe but Michelle Williams does her justice simply by melting into all that she was. She does it with class, charisma, sensuality, and tragedy and by making Marilyn alive again.
To revert back to the film being funny and light and also showing how Colin and Marilyn become these adorable secret friends: Although there are things on the positive side, they don’t take away from reflecting on the darker side of fame and Marilyn’s life, and how much she struggled with herself and with others. Much of this film is about the tensions on set: There is a lot of focus on how others on set were captivated by Marilyn’s abilities and gifts, yet she found it difficult to memorize lines and wasn’t confident overall. Being paired up with Laurence and his comprehensive acting background added to the frustration, because he directly made her feel even worse about her shortcomings. Then Marilyn had problems in her marriage, and with drugs, and those are also depicted in this film. As shooting of the film ends, the only person she cares to see is Colin. It’s an unexpected and quick relationship, but one can see the value in it for someone in a time bordering desperation.
Maybe a couple of unexplainable elements would make it a flawless and full film, but for what it is, My Week With Marilyn shines with all the stars and by genuinely taking viewers back into those times of old Hollywood glitz. It’s a nicely painted portrait of one of the most influential celebrities in history, and spending a little time on it is worth it.