My Week With Marilyn
Release date: December 23, 2011
Directed by: Simon Curtis
Written by: Adrian Hodges
Based on the novel by: Colin Clark
Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Emma Watson
Capturing the essence of the magnetic woman that was Marilyn Monroe has long been a great challenge. How does one portray one of the greatest female icons of the 20th century and do her justice? Push aside the pedestal of perfection and show an innocent and lost woman, rather than the lavish star that many imagine her as.
My Week with Marilyn tells the story of Colin Clark, a young man who decides to use his family connection to Vivien Leigh and Sir Laurence Olivier to break into the film business. He starts off as a simple production assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, working as a gopher and flirting with the young wardrobe assistant, Lucy. It isn’t until the star of the film, Marilyn Monroe, arrives that things turn around for him. In an attempt to escape the pressures from work and Hollywood, Marilyn sets off with Colin – spending a week experiencing the pleasures of British life.
Most of the charm of My Week with Marilyn lies in its lead actress, Michelle Williams. One cannot deny that Williams has talent, as seen in previous years with her Oscar nominated roles in Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine, but tackling a woman as complex as Monroe would seem like an extraordinary challenge to most. At times during the film, the viewer almost forgets that this isn’t actually Marilyn because of the sheer likeness in expression. From the opening song and dance number, one can truly see how comfortable Williams really is in Monroe’s shoes. Putting her own spin on such a well-known actress was risky, but she delivers such a stunning performance that one can’t help being completely enamored by her — just as the characters in the film seem to be.
However spectacular Williams is in the film, the rest of the cast has their ups and downs. Redmayne has looks and charisma, but his character acts primarily as a catalyst to lure the audience into the loose story. Branagh is decent as Olivier, delivering plenty of one-liners that add just the right amount of comedy to the film, but also diving into unnecessary Shakespearean-style speeches. Dench and Watson don’t contribute much to the film, aside from Dench’s character being necessary to complete the film within a film, and neither does the rest of the cast, unfortunately.
Performances aside, My Week with Marilyn doesn’t quite live up to the hype surrounding it. It does an astounding job of setting up the mood of the fifties in its costumes, set design, and music, but unfortunately falters heavily in the writing. Adrian Hodges, who has written for television most of his career, does just that: give us a made-for-tv movie script that just happens to be a vehicle for Michelle Williams’ performance. We can see that the actors do the best they can with a mediocre screenplay, but there was no chance for the movie to reach any sort of emotional climax, leaving you teased and disappointed with the conclusion.
Simon Curtis’ directing sadly isn’t much better. One might expect a lot from a veteran television director, but Curtis seems to have settled for less than perfect with many of the scenes, which feel blander than they should. It’s really a shame that certain scenes were so choppy and awkwardly pieced together because, while the potential for a great and touching moment exists, the viewer doesn’t end up getting much out of it.
Even with its poor editing and writing, My Week With Marilyn is still worth a watch, if only for the glorious Michelle Williams, who has just enough magic to keep you under her spell.