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My Week with Marilyn - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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My Week with Marilyn
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Directing: A-
Acting: A
Writing: B+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+



Michelle Williams is a revelation in My Week with Marilyn. It could be argued that there is no other American actress as iconic as Marilyn Monroe, and yet Williams both evokes Marilyn perfectly and makes the part her own. It's a joy to watch her. She lights up the room just like Marilyn did.

When Marilyn Monroe went to England to film the 1957 Laurence Olivier film The Prince and the Showgirl, thirty years old and already on her third marriage (to Arthur Miller), she befriended a young Third Assistant Director named Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). Clark wrote a diary of his experiences with her at the time, published a memoir about it in the nineties, and this is the movie based on that story. It all takes place during filming of this movie, which means we get to see a large amount of Marilyn both on and off set.

Seeing Michelle Williams play Marilyn Monroe on set borders on amazing. Monroe, frustrating Olivier to no end, must do take after take. She is self-conscious and horribly insecure. But when she gets it right, it's wonderful. The other cast members of the movie say so. And Williams nails that Marilyn Monroe delivery when saying her lines, not quite evoking a Great Actress but being quintessentially Marilyn Monroe. There's a specific type of diction to it, always accompanied by a wide-eyed facial expression that is both purely innocent and irresistibly sexy. No one else has ever quite managed this; it's possibly only Monroe in her era could have done it. Williams makes you see how it's no wonder the world was in love with this woman.

A fair amount has been made about how Williams is great in a movie that isn't. Granted, My Week with Marilyn will never make it on the list of the best movies of all time, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile. I would even go so far as to say Williams is by far the biggest reason to see it, but she does not alone make it work. She is surrounded by other great performers, most notably the impeccable Kenneth Branagh as Olivier, a man with nearly zero patience for Method acting, with which Marilyn is obsessed. Judi Dench is delightful as always as Dame Sybil Thorndike, who played Olivier's mother in The Prince and the Showgirl. And Julia Ormond is lovely as Olivier's wife, Vivien Leigh. Rarely is a movie so full of such iconic people as characters. They all pull it off.

Honestly, Eddie Redmayne is comparatively dispensable as Colin Clark, the young man telling this story. That's not to say that he does anything less than a good job; he's fine, but his role here, even as the narrator, is basically to step back and let those around him shine. And boy, do they. Zoë Wanamaker, best known as Madame Hooch in the Harry Potter movies, practically disappears as Paula Strasberg, Marilyn's acting coach. Emma Watson also turns up as Lucy, a crew member for some time pursued romantically by Colin, and although this part is not at all showy, it's nice to see her as someone besides Hermione Granger.

As for the story itself, it's such a small part of Marilyn Monroe's life that it doesn't offer a whole lot of insight into a woman who remains largely mysterious. Perhaps it's just as well, given that's such a part of her lasting mystique. It's an unusual take, in any case; this is about an American icon but entirely set in England -- Monroe herself, her husband (played in a kind of nondescript way by Dougray Scott), and her acting coach are the only Americans in it. Everyone else is British.

Colin Clark was a lucky man who got a brief window into the world of who was then the most famous woman on Earth. The same could be said of this movie's audience. This is hardly a biopic; it's more like getting to see a couple chapters from one. It's almost a tease -- much as Marilyn herself was. It's a brief glimpse into her few joys and her many heartaches. Given that so little can truly be concluded about what made her tick, it feels appropriate. It still makes for a solid story, as presented by Colin. As Lucy tells him after he admits that Marilyn broke his heart a little, his heart needed breaking. But Marilyn Monroe had a need for breaking hearts, and it's Michelle Williams who makes you see why.

Michelle Williams commands attention in MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.


Overall: A-
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