The film, ‘My Week With Marilyn’, plays it safe. Allegedly based on a real life account, the film reiterates this Marilyn myth, as she suffers from bouts of self-doubt, fuelled by all those pills she took, which would ultimately kill her, and a not-so-perfect marriage with American playwright Arthur Miller. While the entire world desires her, including her leading man in the film, ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, Sir Laurence Olivier, she lives a chequered, lonely life, finding solace in the company of a 23-year-old wide-eyed young man.
The film is not a biopic of Marilyn Monroe or anyone else involved. It’s more like a making-of documentary of the original 1957 film, ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’. Seeing the original film before this one would really enhance the experience. Look, for example, how Judy Dench deliciously copies the tone and attitude of Dame Sybil Thorndike in the original film while uttering the dialogue involving mascara: “Sweetly pretty. She should use more mascara. When one is young, one should use a lot of mascara. When one is older, one should use much more.” The scene is priceless.
‘The Prince and the Showgirl’ is not exactly a great film, but there’s something about it — the awkward chemistry between Olivier and Monroe, and Olivier’s strange accent as a regent of an imaginary Eastern European country, and Monroe’s easy charm as an American showgirl. You don’t realise the difficult story of its production while seeing it.
That story is the crux of ‘My Week With Marilyn.’ Michelle Williams has received and was nominated for numerous awards for her portrayal of Marilyn. So is her co-star Kenneth Branagh as Olivier. Both deserve the accolades. However, everybody seems to have forgotten about the performance of Eddie Redmayne as Collin Clark, the centre and point-of-view of the film.
British actor Eddie Redmayne is not hero material. He is too tall, too thin, and too full of freckles to be a Hollywood hero. Yet, he is such a consummate performer that he owns the role he plays. The last time I saw him was in ‘Black Death’ where he played a young priest consumed by his desire for a woman, and before that in ‘Savage Grace’ as Julianne Moore’s troubled son, who killed his mother at the end.
Here, he plays Collin Clark with the right amount of vulnerability and guile. He is our eyes and ears, and Redmayne pays Collin with such earnestness that we don’t seem to notice him at all. The way he is infatuated with his icon, we too are infatuated. We don’t see him fall in love, we all fall in love with the same object of desire.
With his very presence, the film about Marilyn Monroe becomes a film about the agonies of first love, not that ‘My Week With Marilyn’ tried to capitalise on the fact.
But we understand. As the Judy Dench character says towards the end, “First love is such sweet despair.”
Writes Roger Ebert:
The success of "My Week With Marilyn" centers on the success of Michelle Williams in embodying the role. With the blond hair, the red lipstick and the camera angles, she looks something like Monroe, although she's more petite. What she has is the quality that was most appealing: She makes you want to hug her, not have sex with her. Monroe wasn't bold in her sexuality, not like her contemporaries Jane Russell or Brigitte Bardot. She held it tremulously in her grasp, as if not knowing how to set it down without damaging it.
The movie seems to be a fairly accurate re-creation of the making of a film at Pinewood Studios at that time. It hardly matters. What happens during the famous week hardly matters. What matters is the performance by Michelle Williams. She evokes so many Marilyns, public and private, real and make-believe. We didn't know Monroe, but we believe she must have been something like his. We're probably looking at one of this year's Oscar nominees.
My Week with Marilyn is a 2011 British biographical film directed by Simon Curtis and written by Adrian Hodges. It stars Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Dougray Scott, Judi Dench and Emma Watson. Based on two books by Colin Clark, it depicts the making of the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, which starred Marilyn Monroe (Williams) and Laurence Olivier (Branagh). The film focuses on the week in which Monroe spent time being escorted around Britain by Clark (Redmayne), after her husband, Arthur Miller (Scott), left the country.
Principal photography began on 4 October 2010 at Pinewood Studios. Filming took place at Saltwood Castle, White Waltham Airfield and on locations in and around London. Curtis also used the same studio in which Monroe shot The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. My Week with Marilyn had its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on 9 October 2011 and was shown at the Mill Valley Film Festival two days later. The film was released on 23 November 2011 in the United States and 25 November in the United Kingdom. For her portrayal of Monroe, Williams was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Motion Picture. She also earned Best Actress nominations from the Academy Awards and British Academy Film Awards.
More on Marilyn Here.