Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

My Week with Marilyn begins with a soft yet seductive song and dance number by Michelle Williams, as she attempts her best Marilyn Monroe impression. The scene pans out and we see that Marilyn is being watched on a movie screen by a group of moviegoers, and at the forefront is young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), the gentleman whose eventual book gave us this movie.

Though the next several scenes serve to further introduce Clark, whose perspective is what we see the movie from, the opening scene is designed to inform us who the movie is really about -- Marilyn.

In arguably the most ambitious role in her career, Williams takes on the role of one the most famous and possibly infamous starlets to ever grace this planet. The movie was heavily promoted as the "first screen adaptation" of Monroe. Thus, to say that Williams had big shoes to fill is an understatement. But she doesn't just perform the role admirably, but outstandingly. After a mere ten minutes, you can't even tell who is who.

The "first on screen adaptation" of Marilyn Monroe is not a biopic. Directed by Simon Curtis, it is an adaptation of two of Clark's books, "My Week with Marilyn" and "Me, the Prince and the Showgirl." The autobiographic books detail the alleged relationship that Clark, a young 23-year-old at the time, had with Monroe, who then, was 30, over the span of about a week. The screenplay was written by Adrian Hodges.

The film takes place in 1956. At the start, Clark is a naive, wide-eyed young man straight out of university. His family, who is absurdly wealthy, wish him to pursue a real job, but Clark wants to pursue his dream and enter the movie business. He uses his connection, none other than Sit Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who he once met at a party, to get a job through his production company as the third-directorial assistant on the film The Showgirl and the Prince, starring Olivier himself, and of course, Ms. Monroe. or should I say Mrs. Monroe, as we are informed that she just recently married the famous playwright, Arthur Miller -- Her last of three unsuccessful marriages.
Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Eddie Redmayne
as Colin Clark in My Week with Marilyn.

For anyone who enjoys cinema, watching My Week with Marilyn is like watching history unfold. Monroe was already a superstar by every stretch of the word, but her most famous of her movies (Some Like it Hot) was yet to come. Oliver, also a household name, is portrayed brilliantly by Branagh as a warm, compassionate yet hot-tempered individual.

Clark is young, but he has devilish good looks. He immediately romances one of the film's wardrobe assistants (Emma Watson), before setting his sights on bigger things.

But again, it's all about Marilyn. As part of a younger generation, we've heard stories about Monroe's irrational behavior, and Williams portrays it as such. Williams' version of Monroe is beautiful, meek, lightheaded, playful, emotionally unstable and drug reliant, all rolled up into one. She is extremely high-maintenance, relying on her acting coach, Paula (Zoe Wanamaker) to get her through her emotional stretches, much to the dismay of the rest of the cast and crew.

But being young and wide-eyed, Clark immediately is entranced by Monroe's beauty and aura, and she notices it. She quickly befriends Clark, and the two begin an intense friendship that turns into something a little more in a short period of time.

My Week with Marilyn also serves to give the viewer a little insight as to how a movie is made. One of the primary settings of the film is on the set of the movie, which creates a slight paradox of a movie set inside of a movie set. Movie aficionados should find it all quite interesting.

Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier
But the film is carried by its brilliant cast, led by Williams and Branagh. Redmayne more than carries his own amongst much more accomplished actors than him, and there are also other roles of old celebrities, with Dougray Scott playing Arthur Miller, Judi Dench as actress Sybil Thorndike, and Julia Ormond as Vivian Leigh, the Gone with the Wind star who was Olivier's wife at the time.

Much credit should also be given to whoever was responsible for set design and wardrobe, for conveying the scenery and attire of 50+ years ago so sharply and convincingly. No doubt, this movie was in professional hands.

The cleverness of the film was to not get too overly ambitious and turn itself into a Marilyn Monroe biopic, but to actually surround itself around an intriguing plot that involves multiple characters and a story line that will keep the viewer more than interested. The slight distraction really gave Michelle Williams a little less pressure, but given how brilliant she was, it probably would not have mattered anyway.

 ~ Review by Ddubbs

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