Film Review – My Week With Marilyn

My Week With Marilyn (M)

Directed by: Simon Curtis

Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Dame Judi Dench

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

What a splendid idea for a film about iconic Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe. Instead of laboriously charting her life from her troubled childhood to her extraordinary popularity and untimely death, My Week with Marilyn encapsulates it all in a story that took place in (as you may have guessed) one tumultuous week.

Based on the novel of the same name by Colin Clark, about his week-long whirlwind friendship and romance with the curvaceous beauty, this film sheds light on Monroe’s crippling low self-esteem, her addiction to drug and alcohol and her heartbreaking need to be loved.

In 1956, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) came to loggerheads on the set of the film The Prince and the Showgirl. Marilyn was already on to her third marriage and trying to establish herself as a serious actress, complete with her iron fisted acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker) in tow. Olivier, on the other hand, a disciplined theatre legend had no patience for Monroe’s erratic behaviour.

The tension on the set was observed first hand by 23-year-old third assistant director Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), particularly when he got caught up in the middle of it. As the shoot became more unbearable and Monroe’s drinking and drug problem more apparent, the pair formed a close bond. As Colin got dangerously closer to the renowned heartbreaker, he managed to see what made her tick.

More than just a gossipy look at behind the scenes shenanigans, My Week with Marilyn touches on clashing personalities, the pressure of stardom and one woman’s deep sadness despite worldwide fame and adoration. With a bright script that has some sharp dialogue and amusing moments, mixed with some touching moments of insight into the starlet, there is plenty to take away from this brisk biopic.

However, it doesn’t escape flaws such as shoddy editing and the occasional storytelling oversight – Dame Judi Dench makes a fine impression in her early scenes as Monroe’s co-star Dame Sybil Thorndike, only to be unceremoniously forgotten about for the rest of the film.

Williams captures Monroe’s fragility admirably. While she can switch on the charm and giggly starlet persona like Monroe did so effortlessly, she also demonstrates the harrowing inner pain she felt and hid from her fans. For those of us who, shamefully, have never seen a Monroe film (me included) or followed her career, this is a respectable short hand to catch us up on who she was when the cameras stopped rolling.

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