MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
It's 1956 and Sir Laurence Olivier (Branagh) is directing and starring in The Prince and the Showgirl at London's Pinewood Studios. Eager young film student, Colin Clark (Redmayne), wants to be involved and he wangles a job on the set. When the film's co-star Marilyn Monroe (Williams) arrives for the start of shooting, all of London is excited to see the blonde bombshell. So is Olivier but he struggles to meet her many demands and acting ineptness, while Clark is totally intrigued by her. His fascination is piqued when Marilyn invites him for a private visit and so into her inner world, where she openly, trustingly struggles with her fame, her beauty and her desire to be a great actress. For Clark, it's a heady introduction to filmmaking.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like Chanel No 5, whose fragrance with which she is identified, the bewitching allure of Marilyn Monroe wafts throughout this gem of a film, allowing us an intimate insight into her fragility, loneliness and insecurity. Ironically, on arrival in Britain in 1956 to star with Sir Laurence Olivier in The Prince and The Showgirl, the screen goddess tells the press she sleeps in nothing but Yardley's Lavender. Whatever the fragrance, the sensuality is intact in this fly-on-the-wall glimpse through the eyes of a 23 year old film-set gofer of an extraordinary week when drama, hilarity, surprises and vulnerability collide.
Simon Curtis' film has all the ingredients required of an irresistible, juicy piece of cinema. There are celebrities, behind the scene scandals and a poignant story of infatuation and mutual need that evolves as a result of the meeting between a naÔve young man and the world's most famous sex-symbol. Colin Clark penned his recollections of the memorable six months on set some 40 years after the event in a book called The Prince, the Showgirl and Me, but details of the week with which the film deals, were missing.
Adrian Hodges' screenplay beautifully sets the scene as we are introduced to the key players. Eddie Redmayne is suitably gullible as Clark, a gawky 23 year old, eager to find his way in the world away from the critical glare of his over-achieving well-to-do family. The cinema is his solace and by sheer determination, he gets himself a job as a lowly production assistant on Olivier's chaotic film set. Kenneth Branagh, in a tour de force as Olivier, is smitten by Marilyn (Michelle Williams), eager to feel young again and renew his screen popularity. He doesn't discount the idea of seducing his leading lady, either, much to his actress wife Vivien Leigh's (Julia Ormond) dismay. The acting credibility, for which Marilyn is searching, is swallowed by her insecurities, profound loneliness and desire to be loved. Never mind that she is a new bride, accompanied by her playwright husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). And there is Paula Strasbourg (ZoŽ Wanamaker), Marilyn's Method Acting guru, who is almost like a portable handbag of self-confidence for the insecure actress.
Ultimately, the film belongs to Williams, whose portrayal of the disturbed, vulnerable Marilyn is luminous. She manages to convey innocence and softness, countering the persona of the pill-popping, insecure actress who fluffs her lines, arrives late on set and drives her director Olivier to despair. She is endearing as a little girl lost, yet also is able to convince us she is the seductress with the hourglass curves who unwittingly gathers unsuspecting men's hearts with every flutter of her lashes. It is the performance of Williams' life: it is not about the lines she speaks, or the songs she croons, it's about the inner sensibility that she projects - which she does, to perfection.
The film offers many funny moments as well as insights into the impossible relationships onset - mostly between Olivier and Marilyn. But it is the relationship between Clark and Marilyn that is the film's main focus; he is the only one who will tell her the truth about what is going on. When she asks him whose side is he on, he doesn't hesitate: 'Yours'. My Week With Marilyn is an unforgettable as the title implies.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
While we know much about Marilyn Monroe, we never seem to know it ALL - or rather, we never seem to get enough of her, something that also happened to her while she was alive. This marvellous glimpse into a week of her life fills in some of the sad, funny, melancholy and amazing aspects of a girl/woman who could never be invented.
It's a love story of sorts, not the traditional romantic one but a whimsical, melancholy one in which love is not sexually prevalent - although it's never absent, either.
Based on Colin Clark's memoir, the story of that week is at once amusing and tragic, but it's the performances that bring the screenplay alive. Williams sinks into the role of Marilyn as if falling into a soft pillow, capturing the essential whispiness, the insecurity and the desperate need for ... well, so many things but above all, love, genuine, solid gold love. She manages to capture the iconic mannerisms and speech of the star without appearing to imitate or impersonate her. It seems she has somehow tapped into the essential Monroe.
There is an especially moving moment when Marilyn and Clark are returning from a frolicking day in the country, in the backseat of the Rolls Royce in which she is driven about. After the more or less innocent day of laughter and nude swimming, Marilyn retreats into her insecure self, her eyes filled with a melancholy that seems to anticipate some tragedy ahead.
Clark is portrayed by a strikingly effective Redmayne, as a 23 year old thrust into the presence of the world's hottest female movie star on his first job in film production. How could he resist her - especially when she senses that he's genuine in his care for her, not hoping to gain from her shine. Redmayne nails it as the sensitive yet firm Colin who isn't an easy pushover for the many minders around Marilyn.
One of them is Dominic Cooper, and he's excellent, as is Toby Jones as her American publicist, Arthur Jacobs. Dougray Scott is surprisingly effective as her third husband, author Arthur Miller. Other notable supports include Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, and the wonderful Zoe Wanamaker as Monroe's acting coach Paula Strasberg, forever hovering at Monroe's side like some vulture ready to defend and protect, with the ferocious interest of the confidante.
But of course it is Kenneth Branagh as Marilyn's director and co-star Larry Olivier who gets to suffer the most angst at Marilyn's hands, albeit more from insecurity and a pill-popped environment than just being determined to be difficult. Olivier's own insecurities are gingerly explored, too.
Judi Dench is wonderful as Dame Sybil Thorndike (who played The Queen Dowger in The Prince and the Showgirl), when stands up for Marilyn as well as she confronts a bullying union organiser. These moments are just some of the many that pepper the film with the sparkle of veracity as Clark's gentle revelations cast light on a special moment in cinematic time.
Made with sublime sensitivity - not to be mistaken for weakness - My Week With Marilyn is a shimmering, memorable, magnificent movie.
First published in the Sun-Herald
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MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (MA15+)
CAST: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Watson, Julia Ormond, Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Dougray Scott, Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones, Pip Torrens, Geraldine Somerville, Michael Kitchen, Miranda Raison, Karl Moffat, Simon Russel Beale
PRODUCER: Harvey Weinstein, David Parfitt
DIRECTOR: Simon Curtis
SCRIPT: Adrian Hodges (books by Colin Clark)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Smithard
EDITOR: Adam Recht
MUSIC: Conrad Pope
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Donal Woods
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 16, 2012
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.