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My Week With Marylin

My Week With Marylin

What She said:

She

Remember all the hype when My Week with Marilyn came out?  It wasn’t a super widely distributed high-profile film, but there was so much talk about how Michelle Williams transformed herself into Marilyn Monroe.  For all the talk, I actually didn’t fully understand what this film was about before watching it.  I thought it was just generally about Monroe, and didn’t realize it was more of a glimpse into her life as viewed by an outsider.  And that’s what really gives the movie value.  If it were just a simple biopic, it wouldn’t be as effective.  Instead, the viewer is presented with a story that may or may not be fact, as we should remember that the truth is in the eye of the beholder.

The film focuses in on the summer of 1956, and 23 year old Colin Clark is embarking on his first job as the third assistant director for the film production of “The Prince and the Showgirl.”  While the position is pretty much the lowest of the low, for Clark it’s a dream come true.  He’s working for Sir Laurence Olivier’s production company and they’ve just booked Marilyn Monroe as the female lead in the movie.  Young Colin is in awe, but he’s also very ambitious, and he quickly finds success in his new role.  He helps accommodate Monroe’s strange and somewhat unreasonable demands, and for this he gains respect from Olivier.  Olivier, like most men, was initially drawn to Monroe, due to her good looks and sex appeal, but his tolerance for her wears thin, as she’s a “method” actor and he’s the more traditional classically-trained thespian.  He can’t deal with her shizz, so he’s happy to make Clark handle her, especially as she reacts favorably to his coddling.  The movie follows Clark’s relationship with Monroe, and through it we get a glimpse into the actress’ life.

My Week With Marylin

This film is based on a book written by Clark, and supposedly is true.  As I said before, I’m not sure how accurate it really is, but if these events did happen as presented, then this is a pretty fascinating story.  It’s somewhat funny to see Olivier’s reaction to Monroe’s antics.  He loves her, but oh how he hates her.  I know there are people out there who are big Monroe fans.  I’m not really one of them, as I haven’t followed her or her films, but she comes across as extremely troubled and slightly ditzy in My Week with Marilyn.  She’s super drugged up throughout the film, which I’ve heard is pretty spot on. 

While the story is interesting, I think the greatest strength of this film is the acting.  Yes, Michelle Williams does do a good job of portraying Marilyn Monroe.  Eddie Redmayne plays Clark.  We’ve been seeing more and more of this actor of late, and it seems to be for good reason.  He gives his character personality and does the wide-eyed doey look very well.   Sir Laurence Olivier is played by Kenneth Branagh, who is himself a classically trained actor, much like Olivier.  Personality- and performance-wise, he’s a great choice for the role.  While he really embodied his character, I regretfully have to say that I didn’t think he looked much like Olivier.  That said, I managed to get past that and enjoyed him for his very strong performance.    

Some of the elements of My Week with Marilyn are kind of superficial.  Honestly, not that much really happens.  It’s more of a coming-of-age story for Clark, and even that is a subtle development.  But the film is a fun diversion driven by very good acting.

Thumbs mostly up.

 

What He said:

He

Imagine if your coming of age story involved on of the most famous celebrities of your lifetime and arguably of all-time. Just think about that for a second. One of the biggest experiences in your life involves someone who all the men want and all the women want to be. This is what happened to Colin Clark, at least that is what he claimed in his two books on the subject.

Colin (Eddie Redmayne) comes from a well-to-do family. This, however, does not stop him from wanting to stand on his own two feet. That and the fact that he’s interested in writing and film, which is something his family has no experience in. They are all successful in their careers, but in industries a little more practical or realistic. They see his interests in film as a phase. They humor him when he says he is going to go out and do it, but also think it’s something is not a serious career.

He eventually lands a job as an assistant on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier’s upcoming film, The Prince and the Showgirl. The movie also stars Marylin Monroe (Michelle Williams). The way the movie portrays him, it makes you wonder why Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) casted Monroe in the role. Part of you wonders if it was nothing more than a schoolboy crush that so many had on her. The other is that, being the perfectionist he was, he recognized her screen presence and wanted that in his film. It was probably a little bit of both.

My Week With Marylin

Olivier being a perfectionist is what led to a lot of issues between the two of them. Olivier was a classically trained actor. He had a lot of training and experience. Marylin Monroe had charisma. She didn’t nail every scene on the first take and actually struggled with her lines quite a bit if this movie is to be believed. But when she got the scene right, her raw talent and screen presence blew Olivier away. All the takes in between those perfect shots led to a lot of frustration though. When she was upset because of the way she felt Olivier treated her, she’d take some solace in Colin, whom she viewed as a nice young fella, ignorant to all the stuff that is involved in Hollywood.

Speaking of all the stuff that goes on in Hollywood, my God. Not that it’s a model of decent or rational behavior now, but so many of the stars of the “good old days” seemed like a complete and total mess.
Getting married again-and-again, seemed like the thing to do. Whenever I watch an old movie and look up a little information on the stars as I write my review, I can’t think of a single one of them who wasn’t married at least twice. Many of them seemed to at least a minimum of three.

Monroe was on exception. On the surface, she appeared to be a very outgoing, playful, and eager to make people happy. And part of her was that way. Her time with Colin was spent doing very normal and non-flashy activities. She seemed not only content, but ecstatic to simply go for a walk in the park with him. But the rest of the time, she was extremely insecure, a little simple-minded, and high out of her mind because of the medication she was on for her emotional issues. I’m no doctor, but she seemed to have very poor self-esteem, had a fear of being along, but also had trouble staying in a committed relationship. She might have even been bi-polar.

Olivier and Colin represent the two ways in which people seemed to react to her. Some thought she was a pain in the ass, others pitied and wanted to take care of her. Branah and Redmayne did quite well bringing these two opposite response to her issues to life. I can certainly understand why one would get frustrated with her, but she seemed to incredibly damaged you genuinely felt bad for her.

I have read some articles and message boards by fans of Monroe and a number of them didn’t care for Michelle Williams performance as Monroe. I thought she was good. I felt drawn to her while watching her performance. Her public persona was one of a flirty, fun, light-hearted gal. She seemed like a nice gal, who could tell a good joke, and would be perfectly content with a nice picnic in the park. But as we all know, she was much more damaged behind closed doors. I felt Williams did just find portraying those dual aspects of her personality.

I agree with the She that not much actually happens in the story, but that’s kind of what works about it. Imagine just hanging out with a celebrity for a week. For a week, they confide in you, want to hang out with you, and generally make you feel like the most important person in the world. It makes an unbelievable situation seem very real.

Prognosis: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on July 28, 2013.  

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