MY WEEK WITH MARILYN Review

There is a certain level of convention that covers "My Week With Marilyn" when what you would expect from a film based around the life of one of the most famous people ever would be anything but. As I sat there and absorbed the film it became more and more apparent that this snippet of who Marilyn Monroe was meant to evoke a certain aspect to her stardom, that it was a glimpse behind the curtain into what we assumed was actually a rather sad life. It is an age old lesson, fame not being all it's cracked up to be, but it is hard to feel sorry for those who have so much and are depressed because they can't have it all. It looks as if they have it all, but they will never have their anonymity again and that is where the choice has to be made. To become a celebrity and keep that status is to say that you want that lifestyle and accept all the trappings that come with it. People never seem to realize that in these types of movies. I have always had trouble feeling sorry for someone who has all they ever dreamed of yet still is ungrateful for the hardships it brings. That is essentially the story we are served here; that Marilyn Monroe was indeed a self-conscious, lost, pill-popper who constantly needed reassuring from her small team that always surrounded her. That she herself felt like she wasn't the celebrity, the ideal figure of glamour all of her fans had cooked up in their heads. Certainly there must have been a tremendous amount of pressure to live up to those expectations when you are showered with such praise all the time, but for all the fuss and all the compliments we have ever heard about Mrs. Monroe I thought a movie about her might be more charismatic. Instead "My Week With Marilyn" is Michelle Williams bringing her incarnation of Marilyn to a film that doesn't deserve it.

Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier.
When I say the film doesn't deserve it that may sound a bit more harsh than I intended. It is just that, compared to the performance Williams gives the rest of the movie just feels so minor. And maybe that is the effect director Simon Curtis was going for; that to make Marilyn feel so much bigger than anything she was a part of is how those around her felt. I could certainly see an argument for that angle, but in the end that is not the clear intention of the film as I interpreted it. Marilyn is certainly the focus here, but the story in which it is telling actually comes more from the perspective of Colin Clark. Clark was a young film enthusiast and was anxious to work in the pictures. His family was wealthy and had connections which allowed him the luxury of knowing Sir Laurence Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh who helped get him an interview with Olivier. This film is based on the memoir of the actual Clark who when working as an assistant on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl" developed a more personal relationship with Marilyn than he could have ever imagined. In developing the relationship between Monroe and Clark (as played by Eddie Redmayne) we see it as more of Monroe trying to escape the pressures of work and living a life that is nothing like the one she has to experience when back in the US. We can see from Marilyn's point of view what she is doing and why she needs it, but we never doubt for a second that Colin is believing every word of it. While this minor love story is "the hook" of the film, the real backbone to it is the job on which Marilyn is supposed to be working and for me, was the highlight of the film. To see Olivier and company in production of a film was the enchanting part of displaying old Hollywood and as Olivier Kenneth Branagh gives a performance to rival even Williams, too bad it isn't given the screen time or focus that might have elevated this film above that conventional feel.

Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Colin (Eddie
Redmayne) take a stroll around Colin's old stomping grounds.
There is a host of other supporting members in the film as well that build an atmosphere authentic to the time period. Having Dougray Scott play Marilyn's new husband and famous playwright Arthur Miller induces those giddy feelings when you see iconic figures in their everyday environment while Dame Judi Dench gives the role of Dame Sybil Thorndike a brilliant touch of intelligence that lends her understanding and empathy. Toby Jones, who is always a pleasure to see on screen no matter the role, shows up in a few scenes as does Dominic Cooper. Cooper, only playing a minor role here as Milton Greene, is an an actor that more consistently seems to be popping up in movies that have award aspirations. Cooper is a fine actor as displayed by his leading work in "The Devil's Double" but he brings nothing spectacular to this small role and left me wondering why he might even be interested if there was nothing different he felt he could bring to it. Emma Watson on the other hand has made a nice choice in a small, but effective post-Potter role. As Lucy, a young girl who worked in the wardrobe department on the film, Colin first develops a crush on her, seeing her as the ideal girl he could get to know and would like to be with. In Colin's world, she is reality while his encounter with Marilyn is a state of dream-like wonderment. The relationships are developed convincingly and the main point of the film is conveyed in a way we don't feel smothered by it, but in the end that overall sense of wonderment is all too brief when Williams as Marilyn is forced to become that figure everyone wants her to be. It is funny to watch her turn it on and off, and depressing in that those around her, those she felt the most safe with, were likely more interested in her for their personal reasons rather than her own well being. Funny in that the greatest role Norma Jean Mortenson ever played was Marilyn Monroe.

Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) is the one positive
actor on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl". 
"My Week With Marilyn" is by no means a bad film, it is rather engaging actually and as put in the previous paragraph has a supporting cast any film might envy. Where it feels lacking is in the oversimplified telling of the story. The conflict is there, Williams perfectly embodying this iconic figure and all her insecurities and war against her ego. One of our greatest living actors, Kenneth Branagh, giving a performance of what is no doubt one of his own idols that speaks volumes and is more than nomination worthy yet the focus is in the wrong place and the film overall lacks a confident direction. I have not seen any of director Simon Curtis's previous work as much of it is British TV series', but it is clear he in fact feels overwhelmed by the pure wattage of star power he had on his own set. And not to discredit Colin Clark, but it is clear that after reflecting on the film that the script is where most of the issues arise. The ambition for the movie can be applauded and the glimpse into Marilyn Monroe's life can certainly be appreciated, but there is a level of greatness that the sum of this films parts could reach that feels restrained by the story it is telling and those who are telling it. If they knew what they were doing they would have easily seen the more appealing and interesting relationship was the one that developed between Monroe and Olivier. That would have been one not to miss, this film however should be seen for Williams dedication and the way she captures the essence of Monroe, but should not be held accountable as the "Marilyn Monroe movie". Someone write a full biogrpahical script and get Williams in on that portrait. That would no doubt be something we could all marvel at.