My Week With Marilyn

PhotobucketProduction assistant Colin Clark’s reminiscence of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe while working on The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956. Colin has just graduated from college and is eager to work in the movie industry. Having met Sir Laurence Olivier once, Colin relies on a promise Olivier made to give him employment after graduation. After showing up every day to wait at the studio, Olivier finally arrives and honors his pledge. Colin’s first job is to find a suitable place for Marilyn Monroe and her new husband Arthur Miller to stay at while they are in England. Miller leaves the country soon after which then gives Colin the opportunity to spend a lot more time with Marilyn. The pair eventually become quite close.

The tale is a fairly even handed representation. At times the portrait is mildly critical and at others it’s tenderly fawning. It nicely documents Marilyn’s erratic unreliability but it also depicts the way her handlers enabled her behavior. I was fascinated with how other people reacted to her persona. We meet her entourage when she initially arrives: her husband, Arthur Miller, business partner Milton Greene and her acting coach Paula Strasberg. Her interaction with Vivien Leigh, Dame Sybil Thorndike, and of course Colin Clark, provide fascinating drama as well. However I found Laurence Olivier’s interaction with her to be the most engaging. Kenneth Branagh is memorable as the revered English actor. I found the contrast between Olivier and Monroe’s personalities to be an inventive technique to dissect her character. You have one of filmdom’s most accomplished thespians, next to a superstar of the Hollywood cinema.  It’s not surprising that these two would have difficulties seeing eye to eye with one another. He clearly desired her level of celebrity and she desperately craved his legitimacy. The comparison is fascinating.

Monroe’s beauty and charisma are presented to stunning effect by Michelle Williams. She perfectly embodies her nervous anxiety, lack of self confidence, constant need for approval, and ability to charm. She’s suitably captivating playing someone everybody thinks they already know. Yet perhaps the platinum goddess is too iconic to accurately interpret. For all of William’s talents, never did I once forget that this was an actress playing the part of Marilyn Monroe.

My Week with Marilyn is essentially a minor picture about the making of a minor film. It’s successfully done nonetheless. An accurate profile of the definitive sex symbol of the 20th century is a daunting task. The chronicle is brilliant in not attempting a full fledged biography, but merely a brief vignette of her existence. There’s a brilliance in setting the story far away from the frenzy of glamorous Hollywood, amid the quiet English countryside. We get a more intimate version of the woman. This tale is actually based on two memoirs Colin Clark wrote documenting his relationship with her: The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn.  From a narrow perspective – seven days of her short life – it ultimately provides a lovely glimpse into the world of the immortal silver screen star.

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4 Responses to “My Week With Marilyn”

  1. I’d definitely agree that Marilyn’s interaction with Olivier was one of the film’s highlights. Ironically, while Williams’ performance is what everyone’s talking about, I think that it’s Branagh that has the most complete performance, and I sincerely hope that he gets some love at year’s end.

  2. I enjoyed this film. Everytime Marilyn appeared on screen I thought it was really her. Not a great movie but very good.

  3. Great review, Mark! I’m quite interested in watching this film, particularly Michelle’s performance! Also, it’ll be the first tme I ever see Emma Watson playing a character not called “Hermione” haha 🙂 Who does she portray here?

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