Review of My Week with Marilyn


Movie Review: "My Week with Marilyn"

Rating: R (Some language)
Length: 99 minutes
Release Date: December 23, 2011
Directed by: Simon Curtis
Genre: Biography, Drama, & History
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

"My Week with Marilyn" is a delightful little film that details a week in the life of Marilyn Monroe and a young man by the name of Colin Clark. Directed by Simon Curtis, the film features a number of excellent performances with the standouts being Michelle Williams as Marilyn and Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier.

The film itself is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Olivier's film, "The Prince and the Showgirl" in 1956. It begins with Olivier hiring Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) to work on the set of his latest production at the behest of his wife, Vivian Leigh (Julia Ormond). Clark's one job is to find a suitable place for Marilyn and her husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) to stay without being disturbed by the local press.

Of course, things don't go smoothly from the start. Marilyn is greeted by the paparazzi at her arrival at Heathrow leading her to be late for a table reading, much to Olivier's anger. The tension between the two continues to build, with the classically trained Olivier feeling that Marilyn lacks focus after she forgets her lines. In stark contrast to Olivier's displeasure, the rest of the cast and crew is in awe of her, noting her grace and beauty.

In the meantime, Colin becomes more and more infatuated with Marilyn. He overhears an argument between her and her husband, prompting him to head back to America. Colin moves in to console her, leaving the two together for a week, despite warnings from many that Marilyn will break his heart.

Michelle Williams completely disappears into the role of Marilyn Monroe. The image of Monroe looms large over pop culture and a lesser actress could see herself lost in the role. But, not Williams, who more than handles her own, disappearing into the public and private personas of the acting legend. The film takes great pains to show the fa├žade of Monroe, making her seem confident amongst the public, but shy and painfully insecure when the camera is off. Knowing Monroe's inevitable fate makes the film even more heartbreaking, especially since she does not seem to know the power she holds.

Kenneth Branagh in the Laurence Olivier role is an interesting bit of casting, considering how Branagh has spent his career following Olivier as the man to go to for Shakespearian films. He takes on the role of Olivier with gusto, bringing with it an edge that seems to have been missing lately from Branagh's work. His scenes with Marilyn are filled with tension and a slight specter of simmering attraction sparking between the two.

It's the character of Colin Clark that serves as the eyes of the audience. He sees Marilyn Monroe as most people do, this beautiful symbol of the perfect woman. As the film progresses, Colin begins to see her image as an act. Underneath it all, she is normal, insecure and unsure of her own beauty and skills. It's a sad realization, one that is shared by the audience not only by what is on screen, but what is known of her eventual fate.

"My Week with Marilyn" is a character study that perfectly captures the time and fashions of the era. The relationship between Marilyn and Colin is kept at a surface level, leaving it up to the viewer to determine exactly what went on between the two. While some may find this to be a fault, it works because of the public idea of Marilyn Monroe as an innocent. That her life was anything but innocent isn't the point of the film. It's about one man's love for the idea of Marilyn Monroe, not the actual person. When she lets him in, she in turn is letting the audience in for a brief moment. It's a beautiful and fascinating experience, one that makes this film a fantastic and ultimately, heartbreaking watch.