Based on the novels The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark, My Week with Marilyn is the story of a film assistant who spends a week with Marilyn Monroe during the production of the film The Prince and the Showgirl. Directed by Simon Curtis and screenplay by Adrian Hodges, the film explores one man’s infatuation with the iconic beauty as he sees her dealing with personal issues as well as trying to make a movie with the likes of Laurence Olivier. Starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, the film also stars Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Emma Watson, Dougray Scott, Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones, Zoe Wanamaker, and Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike. My Week with Marilyn is a wonderful film about one man’s experience with one of the cinema’s most iconic stars.
It’s 1956 as Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is hoping for a job interview to work in a film production headed by Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Colin knows Olivier through a party held by his rich parents as he gets the job as Olivier’s assistant as well as the third assistant director a new project Olivier is directing and starring in along with Dame Sybil Thorndike and Marilyn Monroe. With Monroe arriving with her third husband/playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) and her acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), excitement is in the air as Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond) greet Monroe and Miller.
With Colin working on set as he meets a costume girl named Lucy (Emma Watson), Colin watches the production unfold where it eventually becomes a disaster due to Marilyn’s erratic behavior. While Colin’s job also has to fetch Marilyn and check up on her, he gets more than he bargains for when she takes an interest in him. Colin would end up spending a lot of his time with Marilyn as she gets to relax while he takes her to places. Eventually, Marilyn would manage to perform well though the time Colin would have with Marilyn wouldn’t last following an illness. With the production taking shape and wrapping, Colin reflects on the brief moment he had with Marilyn Monroe.
The film is about a young man’s time with Marilyn Monroe in the shape of one entire week where he would get to know the real Marilyn through all of her flaws and insecurities. While this young man would also go into deep of Marilyn’s life and why she was difficult to work with. Largely because she was a student of method acting as opposed to the more theatrical training that Laurence Olivier had. For Colin Clark, he is in the middle of watching something where times are changing as the old guards like Olivier, Vivien Leigh, and Sybil Thorndike are on their way out while Marilyn is to become the new thing.
While Adrian Hodges’ script is a bit uneven due to the differing narratives that surrounds the film about Olivier’s difficulty with Marilyn’s approach to acting as well as this young man’s infatuation with the iconic beauty. Still, they do manage to coexist as it’s told from the perspective of Colin Clark as he watches a film being made as he has to deal with all sorts of people including Marilyn’s producer Milton H. Greene (Dominic Cooper) who had his affair with Marilyn. While there’s a lot of people warning this young man not to get too close, Clark does get close only to realize that it will include trouble. For Clark, the week he spends with Monroe and getting to know her while watching how a film is made would provide an experience unlike anything that most people would give for. Though the story is really more of a dramatic interpretation of what really happened rather than the actual truth. Hodges does manage to create a story that is exciting about one man’s time with Marilyn Monroe.
Simon Curtis’ direction is quite straightforward yet it’s also very engaging as he opens the film with Clark watching Marilyn Monroe perform on screen as he is enamored by her. The rest of the film is very intriguing for how a film was made at the time while showing what Olivier is trying to deal with as well as Marilyn dealing with her own issues. Curtis manages to create a wonderful sense of intimacy for the way that film is made while going for a sense of style in scenes where Marilyn and Colin walk around the park all by themselves. Overall, Curtis manages to create a film that is entertaining and dramatic in this brief moment in the life of Marilyn Monroe.
Cinematographer Ben Smithard does an excellent job with the film‘s photography where he does some amazing work in recreating some of the film footage of The Prince and the Showgirl to complement the Technicolor photography of Jack Cardiff. For the rest of the film, the look is very stylish while having a gorgeous air to the scenes of Marilyn and Oliver walking around in the park as Smithard’s work is noteworthy. Editor Adam Recht does a nice job with the editing as there’s some playful rhythmic cuts to play up the energy of getting ready on set while the pacing of the film is very leisured so that the audience can have time to see what goes on.
Production designer Donal Woods, along with set decorator Judy Farr and art director Charmian Adams, does a brilliant job with the set pieces created such as the studio and staging for the film sets scene as well as opening dance number that is full of pizzaz and all of that good stuff. Costume designer Jill Taylor does a fantastic job with the costumes created such as the casual late 50s clothing that a lot of the cast wears including the lavish dresses that Marilyn wears for the film she‘s making. Sound editor Nick Lowe does a stellar job with the sound work such as the hollow intimacy of a film set to the sparse world of the house and places that Marilyn surrounds herself in.
The film’s score by Conrad Pope and Alexandre Desplat is wonderful with Pope providing some jazzy pieces for the film with Desplat providing a more piano-driven theme for some of dramatic moments of the film. Music supervisors Maggie Rodford and Dana Sano provide a terrific soundtrack filled with jazz music of the times including the songs that Marilyn Monroe sang in some of her films.
The casting by Deborah Aquila, Nina Gold, and Tricia Wood is great as it features notable small appearances from Philip Jackson as Marilyn’s chauffeur/caretaker, Toby Jones as a brash publicist, Richard Clifford as character actor Richard Wattis, Derek Jacobi as Colin’s godfather who gives Marilyn a tour of a castle, and Dougray Scott as Marilyn’s third husband in famed playwright Arthur Miller. Other noteworthy performances include Dominic Cooper as the slimy Milton H. Greene, Zoe Wanamaker as the very controlling but humorous Paula Strasberg, Julia Ormond as the legendary Vivien Leigh who is dealing with aging, and Emma Watson in a small but charming performance as the costume girl Lucy that Colin briefly dates.
Judi Dench is wonderful as Dame Sybil Thorndike whose kindness and generosity brings a sense of warmth that was needed while being very funny in the way she snipes at Olivier and giving support towards Marilyn. Kenneth Branagh is superb Sir Laurence Olivier as he deals with his own issues over the fact that he’s one his way out while being very charming in how he greets Marilyn while being frustrated over her behavior. Eddie Redmayne is excellent as Colin Clark, the young assistant who watches over Marilyn while being enamored by her as he becomes an unlikely companion of hers. Particularly as Redmayne gets to play the observer while his scenes with Michelle Williams are a joy to watch in the way he gets to be the guy she needed for a while.
Finally, there’s Michelle Williams in what is truly a radiant and mesmerizing performance as the iconic star Marilyn Monroe. While Williams doesn’t really have the body of Monroe as she had to employ a body double for nude scenes. Williams does manage to bring in a sparkling enthusiasm in playing the iconic figure with a great sense of charm and wit while managing to showcase the insecurities and anguish that she goes through in trying to win over her peers and dealing with her persona. It’s a towering performance for the young actress in filling the shoes of someone as big as Marilyn Monroe. Yet, Michelle Williams manages to bring her back to life and reminding everyone that there was a whole lot more to Monroe than being some iconic sex symbol.
My Week with Marilyn is stellar and enchanting film from Simon Curtis featuring a spellbinding performance from Michelle Williams. Featuring a wonderful supporting cast that includes Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Julia Ormond, and Emma Watson. The film is an intriguing look into a brief period of Marilyn Monroe’s life from the perspective of a young man who got to hang out with her for a week. Notably as it brings insight into the troubled production of The Prince & the Showgirl which will probably have more people see this film that Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier tried to create. In the end, My Week with Marilyn is a dazzling film from Simon Curtis.
© thevoid99 2011
nicely written review. i thought the film was a mixed bag but michelle williams delivered an interesting performance.
I admit, the film is flawed as I wanted more Judi Dench. She is just hilarious. Yet, Michelle Williams really made the film an enjoyable experience to see. She might be my pick for Best Actress for the 2nd year in a row. She's come a long way from Dawson's Creek. Hey, whatever happened to the rest of that cast?
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