Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Week with Marilyn

Starring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench.
Director: Simon Curtis
Running Time: 99 minutes
Rating: R

I imagine the pressure of playing Hollywood’s most infamous bombshell is pretty high. Michelle Williams does a decent job of it. Simon Curtis’ “My Week With Marilyn” takes the audience inside Marilyn Monroe’s personal life during the peak time of her career, and shocks us with his depiction of her as a shattered and damaged woman. The year is 1956, and a young production assistant Colin Clark (newcomer Eddie Redmayne) gets a job on Sir Laurence Olivier’s latest film with Monroe. Clark tells the story of his relationship with the actress, and how it was just another addiction for her.

Though the film is based on a true story, I have to wonder how much of it was exaggerated. During her first few days on the film set, Monroe was annoyingly self-conscious, constantly coddled by her acting coach, and needed multiple takes just to remember her lines. Kenneth Branagh is spot-on as a larger-than-life Olivier: an over-bearing yet brilliantly talented (and he knows it) diva. His patience is tried as Monroe second-guesses her every move in the film, and it’s hard not to agree with his overly critical reaction to her. It’s a good thing she was hot, because she made filming a nightmare.

All of you Dame Judi Dench fans out there may hate me for what I’m about to say, but the Dame is truly like herpes – she just keeps coming back. Dench is once again brilliant as an encouraging friend and maternal figure to Monroe, and reminds the audience why she won an Oscar for appearing in just 8 minutes of “Shakespeare in Love.”  

Though Colin’s friendship with Monroe starts very innocently, his naivety eventually gets the best of him. A date with a film costumer (Emma Watson) doesn’t compare to the attention he receives from Monroe, and he ultimately falls hard for the star. 

Williams shows three sides of the troubled celebrity. First, we’re introduced to the sexpot we all know and love, singing on-stage in a slinky dress, surrounded by men. In one scene, she references this role and asks “Shall I be her?” – Monroe clearly made a choice to become a ravishing icon for the public eye. Secondly, Monroe appears more down-to-earth, innocent and naive. And finally, she becomes the drug-addled, tormented being that few of us are familiar with. In a few scenes, she is utterly unreachable, and can only be comforted by Colin. As the film progresses, the audience truly experiences her suffering, as a simple day of shopping is ruined after she’s mobbed by fans on the street. Another pleasant afternoon spent with Colin was quickly brought to a halt when her bodyguard announced it was time for her to go home.

At times, it was hard to remember that I wasn’t actually watching Marilyn Monroe on-screen, from the way Williams carried herself, to the familiar breathy dialect. At other times, the obviously fake padding around Williams’ hips stood in the way of me wholly believing it was indeed Monroe. The film doesn’t reveal whether or not Monroe and Colin stayed friends after the movie wrapped, and it’s hard to tell how truly affected she was by their relationship. It seems as if she just picked up one innocent fellow after another on these movie sets, while it’s apparent his life was changed forever by the experience.

To everyone who lives for Award Show Season like me, don’t miss the Golden Globe Awards tonight at 8pm on NBC!
Trailer, via Fandango

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