My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Directed by Simon Curtis
Written by Adrian Hodges

Marilyn Monroe is an icon. Her fame is undeniable and it goes beyond just being a movie star, she is a cultural phenomenon. If you ask even teenagers today, most of them would know and recognize her, even though she died so many years ago. What is more remarkable is that those same people would struggle to name one of her movies. That is because she was bigger than the movies. She was a star, a sex symbol, and a broken spirit. Any man would consider himself lucky to spend just a week in her presence and to fall in love. But alas, not everybody can be as fortunate as Colin Clark.

Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is a impressionable, naive young man who dreams of producing movies after taking in Hitchcock and Olivier in his local theater. Through the connections that his wealthy family affords him, the determined Colin finds work on Sir Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) new film, a comedy featuring the famous American actress Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Upon her arrival she strikes up a strong relationship with Colin, finding solace in his comfort in the face of the overbearing Olivier, who is just trying to make a film despite Marilyn’s ups and downs on and off the set. However, the film must end sometime, both Olivier’s and this one, and as such the fairytale story for Colin must end too, but it will remain a moment of bliss for the rest of his life.

Every moment Michelle Williams is on screen feels like another moment I am without breath and left entirely in love. I wish I could watch this film on repeat for the rest of my life just to behold Williams. The only problem is I might die early for lack of breath. The only thing that might be better than Williams’ Monroe is Marilyn herself, and even then I’m not to sure. She is pure joy on screen here, and at other times pure heartbreak. Her characterization of Monroe is magnetic. Williams is one of the most spectacular actresses working today, delivering astounding performance after another, with this being perhaps the best yet. Let’s not forget she was married to Heath Ledger, who was a famous actor who died too young. If anyone knows what that is like, it is Michelle and she exudes the troubled nature of Marilyn in this film.

As much attention as Williams has gotten  from everyone, including and perhaps most especially from myself, the rest of the cast should not go unnoticed. This is an actor’s film and anything that is there to be brought, is. I can think of no one better to portray the thespian Sir Laurence Olivier than Kenneth Branagh, and he is magnificent. But right in step is Eddie Redmayne, whose naive, go-getter, passionate Colin is a remarkable figure to see, especially when matched with Norma Jeane. But we also shouldn’t forget the wonderful Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones or Judi Dench. Even Emma Watson is good even if she is barely in the film.

The film is not without its flaws however, which stem mostly from its director Simon Curtis. Curtis does a marvelous job at capturing wonderful performances from his actors, but too often it appears as though he is just trying to be too artsy. Sometimes it works, and mostly thanks to the great costumes, art direction and make-up which help recreate 1950s England, but sometimes it does not work, but too often it is noticeable. It didn’t ever really diminish my appreciation of the film, but I can’t help but feel like it would have benefited from simpler direction, and just letting these great performers just exist on screen and breath. These characters are written and acted well enough, let them be. But like I said, it is a minor quibble in what otherwise is a wonderful experience.

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