I got myself to the theater recently to watch My Week With Marilyn starring Best Actress nominee Michelle Williams. I was looking forward to watching this movie because I’ve been an admirer of Marilyn Monroe since I first knew of her. Despite all the rumors and stories of her life, I always get a thrill out of watching her on screen. She was bubbly and gorgeous and everything you wanted in a movie star.
The basis of the film comes from real-life personal accounts of a young Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne) who landed an entry-level position on a Sir Laurence Olivier production, The Prince and the Showgirl. Clark, and the movie, would have us believe that through luck, a small amount of charm, and a large amount of awe, he found himself in Monroe’s inner circle – much to the dismay of those who had known her longer. For most of the movie I found myself questioning whether much of it actually happened. Many of the more unbelievable scenes occur when Colin and Marilyn are alone so we’re left on our own to decide whether they’re accurate or exaggerated.
As a premise, the story tugs on the common fantasy to spend any amount of time with one of our idols. What would you do? How would you act? Would the person turn out to be as awesome as you always imagined? As it turned out in this story Marilyn’s personal struggles caused her to be, in essence, a little girl who just wanted to be loved. This is implied as the source for her inner demons, the reason she married so frequently, and even why she allowed a controlling sycophant like Paula Strasberg in her life.
Despite an interesting supporting cast (Julia Ormond as Vivian Leigh and Emma Watson as a costume department girl and love interest for Colin) this film didn’t live up to my expectations. From start to finish, I never once had a moment where I felt I was watching Marilyn Monroe. Michelle Williams made a good effort trying to emulate a larger-than-life cultural icon, but she didn’t nail it (also, the makeup department dropped the ball by not doing lush sweeping eyeliner and lashes). Williams came off more as an above average impersonator. Kenneth Branagh, on the other hand, did a phenomenal job as Olivier and I would be happy to see him win at this year’s awards.
Dame Judi Dench portrayed their co-star at the time, Dame Sybil Thorndike, whose only function seemed to be as a nice old lady with a lot of life experience. However, I didn’t see the point of her in it at all by the end. She kept stating that Marilyn was a great actress but nothing in the film supported that, it only contradicted it by stressing Monroe’s enslavement to the Method and her constant frustration on set. Also, did Marilyn ever end up joining Dame Sybil for tea with a spoonful of wisdom on the side? Did Paula tag along? I guess I’ll never know.