In 1956 England, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) lands a job as a production assistant on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl," starring Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Marilyn is also honeymooning with her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller, but the combined pressure of work and the demands of her Hollywood hangers-on is driving the star to exhaustion. When Miller departs for Paris, Colin seizes the chance to give Marilyn respite during a week in the idyllic British countryside.
Adapted from the novels, "My Week with Marilyn
" and "The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me
" by Colin Clark.
My Week with Marilyn is the story of Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne, Black Death's Osmund), a third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl, and his experiences with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams from "Dawson's Creek") on and off the set of the Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh from Valkyrie) directed film. Fresh off the plane from America, Marilyn initially shows up as a high-maintenance, Hollywood movie star amongst a cast of snooty British thespians. At first, Olivier asks Colin to simply keep an eye on her and babysit, but Colin quickly becomes the only person on the production that the star feels that she can trust. This relationship leads to Colin's seeing two different sides of Marilyn; the sexpot woman that she is in public and the insecure girl she becomes when they are alone. She confides in him many of her insecurities and fears, and, despite warnings from everyone, Colin begins to fall for her. He alternates between a pining schoolboy lover and a protective big brother throughout the course of the film, both to help Marilyn gain some self esteem and to help Olivier finish his movie.
My Week with Marilyn was written by Adrian Hodges ("Primeval"), adapted from the real Colin Clark's book of the same name. Director Simon Curtis ("Five Days") stays away from the pill-popping, president seducing Marilyn, instead opting to concentrate on the vulnerable, human Marilyn. In the process, Curtis has made a highly entertaining, if one-dimensional, film. The movie moves from point A to point B rather predictably, but is never boring or dragging. The character of Marilyn is such a stark juxtaposition from the rest of the characters that one cannot help but empathize with her feelings of inadequacy amidst the much more talented but lesser known actors in the film-within-the-film. It's also easy to sympathize with Olivier's frustration with the pampered star when she keeps her fellow actors waiting on the set for hours, if she even shows up at all. The tension between Marilyn and Olivier (with Colin always stuck in the middle) is enough to keep the film interesting, despite all of the savory unexplored subplots (like Marilyn's relationship with her husband Arthur Miller or Colin's budding romance with a costume girl on the set). This is Marilyn's movie, and everyone else is just along for the ride.
Michelle Williams will silence a lot of her critics with this role. From the first shot of her, she becomes Marilyn Monroe. She squeaks and whispers her lines in Marilyn's trademark girlish way, and makes the transformation from unmade, naturally pretty young woman to gorgeous, painted and primped starlet look effortless, just like the real Marilyn Monroe. She even sings her own songs in the musical numbers, showing that she is much more than just a pretty face; her talent cannot be ignored.
Her effortless transformation is evident in one scene in particular. Colin is showing Marilyn around his boyhood school, and the actress is recognized by the students. The shy and unassuming girl simply says "shall I become her?" and turns into the flirtatious and sexy woman, dancing and wiggling for her fans while she converses and greets them. Marilyn turns it on like she's flipping a light switch, and Williams does the same when she becomes Marilyn.
Redmayne's Colin is the perfect straight man to Williams' Marilyn, and Branagh's Olivier is hilarious in his old-school mindset. If the rest of the cast appears stiff, it's because they are - Marilyn is the only American in a cast of old British veteran actors, and they are much more prim and proper than the girl from the states. The performances are deceptively good; what may be mistaken for wooden is more than likely an accurate portrayal of the upper crust acting elite of England. While the cast as a whole is competent, they are all just sidemen to Michelle Williams' Marilyn Monroe, and the role should define her career for a long time to come.
November 23, 2011