My Week with Marilyn
Brilliant Performance, Mediocre Movie

Although the new film My Week with Marilyn spends a lot of time focusing on its title character, the movie is actually about the young man named Colin Clark who helped Marilyn Monroe overcome her neurosis while filming The Prince and the Showgirl in England.  The problem that creates, of course, is that the supporting character is far more fascinating than the main character, which keeps the movie itself from being great.  Nevertheless, it features a brilliant performance by Michelle Williams that is worth a the price of admission alone.

Colin Clark was the youngest son in a wealthy British family who dreamed of working in the movies.  In 1956, he went to London to join Sir Laurence Olivier’s production company.  Like everyone else, Olivier was infatuated with Marilyn and determined to work with her in a movie.  Out of sheer persistence, Clark lands a job as the third assistant director, which essentially makes him a gofer (“go for this, go for that”).  Just being in the same company as the people he has grown up admiring on the silver screen is a dream come true for Colin, but he is about to get a lot more than he bargained for.

The movie presents the filming of The Prince and the Showgirl as a stressful time in the life of Marilyn Monroe.  She’s working overseas with a group of actors that has a completely different acting style from her own, her marriage to Arthur Miller is still brand new, and, well, the stress of simply being Marilyn has frayed the star’s nerves.  By being the most genuinely supportive person around—and by being in the right place in the right time—Colin ends up being Marilyn’s friend, confidant, and companion throughout the movie shoot.

Kenneth Branagh as Olivier in My Week With MarilynColin is played by Eddie Redmayne, a talented young actor who has been popping up in independent films over the past few years, but who has yet to find a mainstream breakthrough.  Although he is very good in the role, there is nothing about the character that stands out, especially when compared to his co-star.

Playing an icon as well-known as Marilyn Monroe is a seemingly impossible task, but Michelle Williams pulls it off so well that you forget that you aren’t actually watching Marilyn.  As the iconic Marilyn we’ve all come to know through cultural osmosis, Williams is perfect.  She has down the voice, the smile, the mannerisms, the dance moves, and the incredible star power all perfectly.  Although few truly knew Marilyn when she wasn’t “her,” Williams’ performance in those moments is so genuine that we can only imagine that is what the star was like behind the scenes.

As Oscar predictions start coming out, one wonders then why her name is not shooting to the top of everyone’s list.  Sure, she’s listed as a contender for a nomination, but no one seems to be giving her a shot at the actual award.  Perhaps the answer is that unlike Ray Charles in Ray or Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Marilyn Monroe is not the protagonist of My Week with Marilyn.  If she were being billed as a supporting actress, you can bet she would be the favorite.

The rest of the supporting actors are equally up to the task.  It’s interesting to watch Kenneth Branagh play Laurence Olivier, an actor he has considered to be an idol, in addition to one to whom he has often been compared.  In character, he’s humorously exasperated by the situation that Olivier has gotten himself into.  Judy Dench is also a delight as British character actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, while Emma Watson is a delight in a small role, proving that she certainly has a post-Harry Potter future.

They are all overshadowed by Williams, however, as is this movie itself.  Unfortunately, like a lot of films based on a person’s memoirs of a specific point in their life, there’s not much in the way of an actual plot.  It is still worth seeing, though, especially if you consider yourself a fan of Marilyn Monroe.

My Week with Marilyn is rated R for “some language.”  This surprised me; seems like the movie probably could have gotten away with a PG-13 rating.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of My Week with Marilyn.