The Reel Deal
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
A Reel Deal Film Review
Film Insight by Tyler Malone
Reel Rating: 3.5 out of 5
“A PORTRAIT OF THE ACTRESS AS A YOUNG WOMAN”
My Week With Marilyn is yet another movie built around a performance. Without the central performance, the film is quite empty, but I can’t deny the talent of the leading lady, and it’s enough of an engaging portrayal of an enigmatic figure that it kept me interested. Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe is somehow simultaneously overstated and understated. It commands our attention and steals every scene (much as Marilyn did herself). “When Marilyn gets it right, you just don’t want to look at anyone else,” says a character in this film. The same could be said for Michelle Williams’ portrayal of her. And yet there’s very little of the over-the-top Marilynisms that we’ve become used to in impersonators’ renditions of the movie starlet. Michelle Williams is only that Marilyn when she’s Marilyn playing Marilyn–like in a great moment where she whispers to the protagonist, Colin Clark, as they’re about to face a crowd of admirers, “Shall I be her?” And then vamps it up for the onlookers.
My Week With Marilyn focuses on the production of the film The Prince and the Showgirl, a film directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier (played here by Kenneth Branagh). Colin Clark, a young member of the film’s crew, ends up getting cozy with the starlet during the production, seduced by the indescribable magnetism that Marilyn Monroe exudes. Be forewarned: this is not a Marilyn Monroe biopic where we get the tragic trajectory of her entire career, but just a glimpse into a week with the woman who continues to entrance just about everyone on the planet. It is a minor key film with a major key performance.
Yes, the film as a whole shrinks behind that performance, as a shy young child behind a mother’s leg, or as Marilyn the person behind Marilyn the icon. True, Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench have some fine moments, but the film feels somewhat empty anytime Michelle/Marilyn isn’t on screen. Colin, the protagonist, is barely there or barely real, even though he’s supposedly the main character. He merely acts as the lens through which we are able to view Marilyn Monroe in all her enigmatic and dichotomous glory. His character is annoyingly simple and annoyingly decent. We’re made to believe that everyone seemed to be using Marilyn Monroe as a means to their own ends, everyone that is except Colin, our handsome, naive and ultimately dull protagonist. There’s one problem with that though: isn’t this the guy who has made two books and now a film about one short week he spent with the actress? How is that not using her as a means to his own ends? How is he not using her as much if not more than anyone else?
Alas, such trifles don’t matter in a film like this. One watches for the performance, one watches to be swept away, one watches to be seduced, one watches to spend a week with Marilyn Monroe, living through Colin’s eyes, and not giving a hoot what it all means or how much of this really happened. So even through its weaker bits, I enjoyed it. And, anyways, it’d be hard for me not to enjoy a movie with two gratuitous shots of James Joyce’s Ulysses on a bedside table, and even more gratuitous shots of Michelle Williams’ beautiful backside.
My Week With Marilyn is a film directed by Simon Curtis, and written by Adrian Hodges, based on two books by Colin Clark. It stars Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench. Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier’s, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
Written by Tyler Malone
Photography Courtesy of The Weinstein Company
Design by Jillian Mercado
Press Photo from My Week With Marilyn, Photography Courtesy of The Weinstein Company