REVIEW: My Week with Marilyn

14 01 2012

While I’m always urging filmmakers to push the envelope, sometimes it can be nice to see a movie that takes no risks and is proud of it.  Provided that the movie is pleasant, easygoing, light and breezy like a Sunday stroll in the park, these movies can be a real treat to sit back, relax, and enjoy.  Very few movies get my “Sunday stroll” certification, and “My Week with Marilyn” earns it with ease.

It’s a little more serious than the usual stroll, but it’s a great deal of fun to watch largely because of how easily Michelle Williams totally loses herself in the persona of Marilyn Monroe.  She effortlessly brings to life the charm, the sultriness, and the seduction of the actress, making us wonder if we’re falling in love with Monroe all over again – or Williams for the first time.  While she has shocked in “Blue Valentine” and riveted in “Brokeback Mountain,” Williams has shied away from endearing and glamorous characters.  Yet with Marilyn Monroe, it provides the perfect marriage of her stunning, red-carpet looks and grace with her remarkable ability to plumb the depths of tortured and confused women.

The script by Adrian Hodges gives Williams an ample base to build her interpretation of Monroe without constraining her artistic decisions.  She may spout some lines we would expect the famed actress to say, but he thankfully realizes that the majority of the performance would come from her physicality and the bubbling psychological torment she builds up so deftly.  It’s a perfect blend of understated and flashy that will make you want to spend a week with Marilyn.

Indeed, a week is all that young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), the upstart and ambitious 23-year-old who lands a job working on Laurence Olivier’s lastest film, gets to spend in love and longing with Marilyn.  When marital tensions with her husband, playwright Arthur Miller, begin to threaten her work in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” she looks to young Colin for that puppy love to get her through.  Despite everyone telling not to be beguiled, including her staff, Olivier himself (Kenneth Branagh), and his conscience which tells him that he cares for costume designer Lucy (Emma Watson), he decides to let himself fall.

Playing out behind this love story are a number of interesting subplots, namely Laurence Olivier, played with accuracy and love by Kenneth Branagh, as he faces his own inadequacies as an actor when confronted with Marilyn’s talent.  His total lack of patience with the entire production reduces the fabled actor to his inner whiny child, which makes for quite an amusing watch.  Judi Dench as veteran actress Sybil Thorndike also makes for good fun in her few scenes.

The movie feels a little slight, sure, but it never has any pretensions of seeming so.  From the first slightly out-of-place musical number, it declares that the movie is not about Colin, the character whom the narrative revolves around, but about Marilyn Monroe.  “My Week with Marilyn” mostly just exists as a frame for Michelle Williams’ performance.  But hey, it’s not all too bad looking of a frame.  B / 



5 responses

15 01 2012
Steven Flores

I really liked this film though I did wish it had more Judi Dench. She was fun to watch.

15 01 2012

That’s true, she kind of disappears in the middle of the movie and then when she comes back at the end I was thinking, “Wait, where did she go?”

15 01 2012
Matt Stewart

Michelle Williams seems like the absolute perfect person to play the part of Marylin Monroe. I hope to see this one as a part of my 2011 movie marathon!

Good review Marshall!

15 01 2012

What else is on that marathon? Just out of pure curiosity?!

16 01 2012

For me, I didn’t really like this as much considering I thought it was insanely unbelievable and melodramatic but the performances from Branagh and Williams were great though and I think they definitely deserve Oscar nominations. Good review Marshall.

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