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March 13, 2012

Movie Review: My Week with Marilyn (2011)

Directed by Simon Curtis

Reviewed by Greg Goodsell

"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure,” Screen Icon Marilyn Monroe confessed in one of her more memorable quotes. “I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.” While this quote would appear to justify bad behavior, it does shed light on the complexity of human beings. It seems that a person’s positives are frequently met with negatives that are either acknowledged and brought to the fore, or ignored. Adolph Hitler, many are surprised to discover, was actually a fairly talented water colorist.

This quote is brought into play in the latest Marilyn Monroe biopic My Week with Marilyn, a nominee for last year’s Best Picture. Based on Colin Clark’s memoir, the film tells of one stars-truck British lad’s (Eddie Redmayne) brush with the Goddess (Michelle Williams) when he is employed as a lowly gofer on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). The film follows Monroe’s brush with British acting royalty as she is recruited by Sir Laurence Olivier (Sir Kenneth Branagh) to star in a light, escapist comedy. By the time Monroe appeared in Showgirl, she was at the height of her career, freshly married to playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) and a year from her signature role in Some Like It Hot. Like the above quote, it was the best of times and worst of times for the actress. Pulled in many directions by drama coaches, producers, sycophants and hangers-on, being the most beautiful and most desired woman in the world definitely took its toll.

My Week with Marilyn shows the star at her most neurotic and vulnerable. Excessively late to the set, Marilyn flubs her lines repeatedly leading to countless retakes. At first revered by the theater-trained British thespians for conquering the demands of the move camera, Marilyn wears out her welcome quickly. It could be argued that Monroe secretly knew how much she was worth and played “passive aggressive” games with movie producers to get her way. She embarks on a whirlwind – but frustratingly chaste romance with Colin, going on a brief tour of the British countryside where she is mobbed by fans. Quickly, Colin becomes Marilyn’s personal “gofer,” sleeping with her in bed fully clothed. It is implied – but never confirmed that Marilyn had a miscarriage during the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. In conclusion, Marilyn gave the project her best only after everyone associated with the film suffered through her absolute worst.

My Week with Marilyn, a long-shot nomination for Best Picture in a year dominated by Movies About the Making of Movies – see also Hugo and The Artist, benefits from gorgeous cinematography by Ben Smithard. The film is small in scale, but the production design depicting 1950s England is very effectively evoked. The film’s one drawback is that Michelle Williams looks nothing like Marilyn Monroe. One has to bear in mind that many actresses have portrayed Monroe before with various degrees of effectiveness, and that Monroe’s allure was every bit as dependent on her charisma and personality in addition to pulchritude.

The DVD/Blu-Ray combo from the Weinstein Company is sparse with extras, featuring only a commentary by director Simon Curtis and a brief making-of featurette.

1 comment:

  1. Marilyn had a tough life from what I've read, I believe Marilyn was a lonely person and I sympathize with her. She was a beautiful woman and left too soon. I haven't seen this movie, My Week with Marilyn but I am sure it's good. The previews alone have me hooked. Michelle looks amazing playing her. When I get off my shift at DISH, I'll be able to watch it. It already arrived in the mail since I ordered it using Blockbuster @Home. Good thing I don't have to return it right away.