Review: My Week With Marilyn

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We all know the iconic persona of Marilyn Monroe – the platinum blonde, sex-kitten that was once the world’s most famous woman. My Week With Marilyn boldly flips these perceptions, showing us a little bit of who the real Marilyn Monroe was, in this moving yet fun tale of Marilyn working with Sir Laurence Olivier on his film, The Prince and the Showgirl. Based on the memoir by Colin Clark, who served as third assistant director  of Olivier’s film, we see the heated relationship between the two stars as well as Monroe’s personal challenges.

Simon Curtis directs, resisting the temptation to simply rely on making a film about making a film, giving us a  sense of depth to the characters off the set. That said, the scenes on the film-set showing Marilyn under pressure or Olivier’s frustration are some of the most entertaining of the film. Curtis directs with a sense of nostalgia and glamour, whilst looking at the British film industry in the 1950s. Whilst Curtis presents the character in a serious light, he is also ablt to have some fun playing about with the iconic figures like Monroe, Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Dame Sybil Thorndike and Arthur Miller.

Despite not looking exactly like the icon, Michelle Williams truly brings a sense of depth to Monroe and becomes entirely believable in the role. Monroe is presented as a woman who doesn’t know what to think, she’s controlled and protected by those around her, from her acting coach (played by Zoe Wannamaker) to her agents and photographers. Her confidence is shattered, being fed lies by those around her due to her star power – with the only one who speaks the truth to her being the young third assistant director, Colin Clark. Williams also recreates several iconic Marilyn moments throughout the film: from a toned down recreation of Heat Wave from There’s No Business Like Show Business to the end’s emotional cover of Bus Stop’sThat Old Black Magic. William’s is truly a revelation in this as the movie star who dreams of being a fine actor.

A stark contrast to Marilyn is Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier – the fine actor wishing to be a movie star. This is truly an acting masterclass from Branagh who has nailed his performance of Olivier and has some wonderfully written lines. The tenuous relationship between Monroe and Olivier provides the basis for some of these humorous lines like when Olivier, the frustrated professional exclaims ‘Marilyn, my darling, you are an angel and I kiss the hem of your garment but why can’t you get here on time for the love of FUCK?’ This mixture of exuberant camp and frustration puts this up there with Branagh’s most enjoyable performances.

Young newcomer, Eddie Redmayne brings a nervous excitement and charm to the part of Colin and the relationship formed between Marilyn and he is truly charming. The cast list truly reads like a who’s who of the acting world with the marvelous Dame Judi Dench and Julia Ormond, stealing scenes left right and centre as Dame Sybil Thorndike and Vivien Leigh. There’s also Sir Derek Jacobi, Emma Watson, Dougray Scott, Toby Jones and Dominic Cooper, each managing to shine with smaller supporting roles.

Whilst My Week With Marilyn will not teach you a huge amount about the star that you did not already know, it’s captivating, nostalgic entertainment with a wonderful balance between poignant romantic-drama and humour. It’s a personal favourite of the year, with outstanding performances from Williams and Branagh and smooth direction from Simon Curtis.

Rating: 4.5/5

Reviewer: Andrew McArthur
Rated: 15 (UK)
Release: 25/11/11
Director: Simon Curtis
Stars: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench & Dominic Cooper
Originally posted silverscreenslags