MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
RUNNING TIME:99 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY:Entertainment Film Distributors
REVIEWED BY:Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Colin Clark falls in love with the movies as a child and as a young man is willing to wait…and wait…and wait outside an office until he finally secures a job working in the film industry. After carrying out some favours unpaid, he gets a job working on the British set of The Prince And The Showgirl at Pinewood Studios. The movie, which its star is also directing, is intended to revive the career of Laurence Olivier while raise the profile of Marilyn Monroe, the greatest star of the star who is tiring of her sex symbol status. Monroe is also on honeymoon with her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller. Monroe proceeds to exasperate most of the cast and crew by showing up late on the set and having trouble with her lines, especially Olivier, who takes an instant dislike to her. Monroe needs a friend, which could be Clark……
I’m going to begin this review by admitting one thing; I am no fan of Marilyn Monroe, and cannot understand for the life of me how this [in my opinion] talentless, clueless bint, who is worshipped by many of today’s talentless, clueless bints such as Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox, became one of the famous movie stars ever. She was a mediocre actress who could only play two roles, both of which were basically herself, and a lazy woman who often could not even be bothered to turn up for filming on time or learn her lines. Her few good films, such as Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, manage to succeed inspite of her, not because of her. Yet somehow, the camera loved her, and to millions of people that was, and is, enough. My Week With Marilyn is based on two diary accounts by Colin Clark, the first being The Prince, The Showgirl and Me, about his time spent on the set of The Price And The Showgirl, and the second being My Week With Marilyn, a possibly fancified account of the time he spent with Monroe. The result is a charming, immensely likeable movie which doesn’t provide any surprises, but put a smile on the face of even this Monroe-hater, and actually became rather touching.
Filmed appropriately in Pinewood Studios, My Week With Marilyn perfectly encapsulates time and place, and really gives a convincing impression of a film set circa 1956. To its credit, it doesn’t hold back with showing Monroe’s unprofessionalism, and proceeds for a while as a light comedy. Olivier’s increasing annoyance with his co-star allows for some very funny moments, and Monroe really is a bit dislikeable at first to the point where you will probably sympathise with Olivier. Little by little though, the film peels back the layers of this seemingly arrogant, incompetent star to reveal a fragile, lonely human being. It doesn’t entirely explain why she was so unprofessional, nor does it really answer the question of whether Monroe actually could act well or not. She is constantly being pushed by her ‘Method’ coach Paula Strasberg, who is always saying she is a great actress, but I certainly don’t believe she thinks so. The film hammers home how much control studios had over stars in those old days, and even sometimes now, to the point of giving them very little freedom indeed. Perhaps her behaviour was her way of rebelling against her situation, which, it is suggested, was aided by pills which may have done her no good whatsoever. It also rather sadly shows how stars have an image and often have to live up to it. Even when Monroe briefly escapes the confines of her prison, she is hounded by people, and the scenes where she plays the ‘sex symbol’ to them, knowing that’s what is expected of her, are really sad, because you know she is not really enjoying it.
Around half way through, My Week With Marilyn develops real heart as it depicts the increasing friendship between the infatuated Clark and Monroe, who has that peculiar but common kind of loneliness most of us have probably experienced, being surrounded by people but still feeling on her own. Up to now, most of the film, except for the recreations of the sets of The Prince And The Showgirl, have been set in the drab grey and white rooms and corridors of the studio, so when Clark and Monroe escape to the countryside, the greens and browns really give a feeling of liberation, and the film brings in a pleasingly old-fashioned romantic feel, partly of course because Clark does not become another notch on Monroe’s bedpost. His declaration of love to her is very moving. I don’t think Clark really expects Monroe to leave her superstar position for him, but you have no doubt that Monroe will treasure the time she spent with him, one of precious few times where she had some freedom and lived a more normal life. As for Clark, well, he’ll get over it, but the movie’s depiction of that painful first love most of us have experienced, perfectly described in the film as “such sweet sorrow”, is beautifully done. It may describe a fantastical situation which just happened to be mostly true, but some of the emotions it evokes are universal…….it’s just that few of us have shared a bed with The Greatest Star In The World.
The reception to Michelle Williams’s performance as Monroe has been mostly good, though not entirely. I think that if you’re a fan of Monroe you’re probably more likely to find flaws, and there’s nothing wrong with that – if someone played James Stewart or Vincent Price in a film I would be searching for differences and things that they haven’t got right, because I’m a huge fan of theirs, know more of what they are like through often watching their movies, and want to see them portrayed100% accurately. To me, though, Williams really ‘gets’ Monroe, especially her voice and in the opening and closing scenes where she performs two songs Monroe did. She superbly plays both Monroe’s main personalities; the little girl lost and the voluptuous sex kitten, while giving a very sad performance of a woman trapped by her fame and what she is, something many stars, especially decades ago, experienced. Despite having looks that are actually quite different to Monroe’s, I believed she was Monroe for the duration of the picture, and that’s what matters. To me, it’s the best female performance of the year.
Not all the cast convince in playing real people, with Kenneth Branagh’s turn as Laurence Olivier being especially disappointing and just seeming to just skim the surface, but Zowie Wanamaker is nicely annoying as Lee Strasberg and Emma Watson pleasing as Clark’s girlfriend, who is ignored in favour of Monroe. With a romantic score by Conrad Pope which nicely mixes in period music, this is undoubtably a soufflé of a movie, one which hardly depicts thrilling events and may not linger in the mind for too long, but it’s certainly the best made movie and the most pleasant watch of the [pretty dire in cinematic terms] last couple of months. In most of our lives, it’s often the little moments, which perhaps at the time seem innocuous and unimportant, and are maybe more about what didn’t happen as opposed to what did, which stay with us more, and My Life With Marilyn beautifully illustrates this.