Sunday, February 26, 2012
Movie Review: My Week with Marilyn
I usually don’t go in for too many of the Academy Award worthy movies, not because I don’t enjoy artsy movies, so much as they often feel forced, like you know they were made solely to win an award, and not really to tell a story. I realise that there are some really terrible movies that get made that are made solely to make money, but that’s not the case with this movie, or any of the Academy worthy movies, or that’s how I see it.
The story of this movie follows Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. I am sure, like many of you, what I know about Ms. Monroe, I know through that Elton John song, Candle in the Wind. Ms. Monroe was known for her substance abuse and general lack of self-confidence. What makes the story so compelling and memorable is that during this time, she displays both the truth and the fiction about her true self. Ms. Monroe comes on set with Sir Laurence Olivier, who is enamoured with her, but quickly discovers she is impossible to direct and comes with a host of issues. Ms. Monroe can barely arrive on time for filming, let alone knowing her lines or being able to play the part at all. The story follows Ms. Monroe as she spirals into drug abuse and falls in love, for a moment, with a young production assistant.
The movie is based on a book, or pair of books, I’m not sure, and tells the story from the production assistant’s point of view. Colin Clark leaves his family’s home to go off and work in movies, and the first break he gets is on the movie The Prince and the Showgirl. In it, Sir Laurence Olivier casts the American starlet Marilyn Monroe in the lead part. What follows is an arduous juggling act for the entire cast and crew as they try to get Ms. Monroe to do what they need her to do.
Michelle Williams portrays the fragile and insecure Ms. Monroe perfectly, and holds her own against Great Britain’s best actors, the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench and Julia Ormond, all Academy Award winners or nominees. Eddie Redmayne plays the production assistant who ‘rescues’ Ms. Monroe for one short week, giving her the unbridled support and love she feels she lacks. Both Emma Watson and Dame Judi Dench steal scenes from the main cast with their quiet portrayals of a costume assistant/love interest to Colin and co-star/Dame Sybil Thorndike. The latter plays the beautifully envious role of admirer of Ms. Monroe, helping her ease into what ultimately is a fractious cast and movie.
The movie has a quiet sort of brilliance to it, I didn’t realise I was being completely and utterly sucked into its thrall until it was far too late. The cast was perfect. I was really surprised by how well Michelle Williams performed. I know this isn’t her first Academy Award nomination, and won’t be her last. She was brilliant as Ms. Monroe, and that window into the way Ms. Monroe behaved was just tragic and magical. While this isn’t a movie I could say I recommend, in the sense that it made me sad, it also gives you that quality that fewer and fewer movies these days: make you believe in the magic around cinema. After I watched this movie, I felt, better, and also regretful. I don’t know much about Ms. Monroe, but to see someone who is so electrifying, and see that the cost to her to be that way was so great, it killed her, in the end. There was no one that was enough for her. There was a great line from Dougray Scott, who played her then-husband Arthur Miller, ‘she is devouring me.’ To be a star that great and that acclaimed, didn’t come without a price, and this story depicted it in a way that makes it accessible, you see Ms. Monroe in all her glory and all her shame in two short hours.