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My Week with Marilyn

March 29, 2013

My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Director: Simon Curtis
Actors: Eddie Redmayne, Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh

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Synopsis: Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) arrives in England to shoot what will become The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Monroe takes solace in the callow company of young 3rd assistant, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), to keep her spirits up through the shoot.

Review: Playing on a highly fêted moment in British movie history – when American movie queen Marilyn Monroe came to shoot a film with British theatre king, Laurence Olivier – My Week with Marilyn capitalises on the well-documented mythological refuse of the story to fashion a thoroughly enjoyable, if ultimately fairly slight and insubstantial, treatment of the film shoot. Appropriating the callow enthusiasm of its proxy narrator, young third assistant Colin Clark, the film takes giddy joy in bringing this iconic ‘battle of sensibilities’ back to life, and in many ways, the film is a two-fold parlour game. Of course, there’s the pleasure in seeing Monroe and Olivier play out this strange clash of cultures, but as spectators, we also take conscious enjoyment in seeing how Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh will portray these hugely famous personalities from yesteryear (that also goes to a lesser extent for Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller, and Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh).

In the end, beneath its breezy exterior, the film soon becomes a touch frustrating. First, the framing device of the coltish Colin Clark fawning at Marilyn is a very obvious narrative hook, and second, I think the movie wants to “have its cake and eat it” regarding the ‘tragic’ mythological baggage of Monroe. The film is quite happy to celebrate Monroe’s luminescence and have her detractors like Olivier ultimately laud her, but is never quite brave enough to follow through on much of the subtext of its subject matter where it’s obvious she’s her own worst enemy – and where, in a sense, we see that her problems are not actually that ‘tragic’, more that she was a victim of her own inane narcissism and the unhealthy cocoon perpetrated around her by her cronies. (March 2013)

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