Film Review: My Week With Marilyn (2011)

Based on the diaries of Olivier studios assistant Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), My Week with Marilyn details Marilyn Monroe‘s (Michelle Williams) stay in England while working on The Prince and the Showgirl with actor/director Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Blending the biopic genre with a coming-of-age narrative has been seen countless times before (with Me and Orson Welles being only a recent example) and director Simon Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges do not shy away from depicting another version.

Dedicated to “The Method” (pioneered by Constantin Stanislavski and taught by Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York), Marilyn arrives in England with third husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) in tow alongside acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker). Classically trained Olivier detests “The Method”, not to mention Marilyn’s erratic on-set behaviour. Professionalism separates the two talented actors, leaving young and precocious Colin as the intermediary. Naturally, Colin slowly becomes involved with Marilyn, thus becoming entranced by her inner and outer beauty.

Michelle Williams is incandescently magnificent as Marilyn Monroe. The public Marilyn has clearly and painstakingly been interpreted to the finest degree creating an almost perfect physical replica. Williams really shines, however, when depicting Monroe’s insecurities and uncovers a palpable yearning for acceptance and absolute love and affection.

Kenneth Branagh is commanding and forceful as Olivier. Thankfully his talents are not wasted by the conclusion of the film where he is given a chance to appear vulnerable and insecure after having so strongly chastised Monroe and her behaviour.  

Cast as an affable hero, Eddie Redmayne holds his own opposite Williams and Branagh. Playing a star-struck youth with big dreams for the future doesn’t seem to prove a difficult task and Redmayne displays the appropriate unconditional love that is required to hold Monroe’s enduring appeal.

Warm supporting performances from Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike and Zoe Wanamaker almost steal the scene from Williams. Julia Ormond is also quite charming in a couple of scenes as Vivien Leigh, despite not looking anything like her.

Fascination refuses to wane over the legendary and tragic Marilyn Monroe. This year marks the 50th anniversary of her death and interest will certainly be at an all time high. We’ve heard tale after tale of the Hollywood superstar’s personal and public woes, and My Week with Marilyn sheds no new light into the mystery that was Marilyn Monroe. It does however provide a star vehicle for Williams to ride as she impressively captures Marilyn’s enigmatic screen presence with great skill.

My Week with Marilyn opens in a limited theatrical release in Australia on February 16 through Roadshow Films.

3 blergs

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