It’s rare—perhaps even impossible—to find a star revered to the same extent as Marilyn Monroe. From Andy Warhol’s paintings of her in the Museum of Modern Art to her still-renowned movies, Monroe remains an iconic part of American pop culture that just doesn’t seem to fade away. Whether it was her beauty, talent or a combination of the two, Monroe managed to captivate viewers in a way few others have managed to do.
America’s obsession with this blonde bombshell has found yet another outlet in My Week with Marilyn. Directed by Simon Curtis, the movie is based on the book The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me by Colin Clark, a filmmaker who claims to have had an affair with Monroe in 1956 when he worked on the set of a film she starred in, The Prince and the Showgirl. The movie begins with Clark (Eddie Redmayne) setting off to pursue his dreams of working in the film industry. He manages to snag a job as the third assistant director of The Sleeping Prince where he meets Monroe (Michelle Williams). Monroe proves to be every bit the star that Clark imagined. Much to director and co-star Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) displeasure, Monroe rarely arrives at the studio on time, is extremely sensitive to his critique and constantly needs her acting coach to assist her. As the production cycle progresses, Monroe pulls Clark into a short yet sweet romance that so many of her other coworkers have seemingly fallen into. The young Clark instantly falls head over heels for Monroe and struggles to help her overcome the unhappy existence that lies beneath her giggly persona.
Beginning with early narrations by Clark, the movie has a tough time taking off. Redmayne does a fine job, but his character offers little more than a smile and an admiring gaze. Emma Watson gives the film a splash of fun with her small role, but it cannot take away the relatively drab storyline, which is more of a reflection on writer Adrian Hodges than director Curtis. For example, Monroe’s dialog can at times be deeply insightful, but in other scenes it simply reflects the stereotypes about the acclaimed actress. At one point she asks Clark, “Shall I be her?” before striking a sex-icon pose in front of a admiring crowd. Talk about cliché.
The film is held together by small elements that give it an artsy feel. 1950s music provides a classic touch and the costumes are wonderfully designed to match trends and styles in the mid-twentieth century film industry. In addition, subtle lightning gives the movie a clean-cut feel despite the very dirty secrets woven into Monroe’s role.
To say the least, Williams outshines the rest of the film. Her portrayal of the pathetic yet beautiful star captures the tragedy behind Monroe’s success. Watching Williams embody Monroe, it’s hard to distinguish between the two. Although Williams’ slim body is not nearly as voluptuous as Monroe’s (although padding did help), her physical similarities to the star make the performance all the more plausible. Everything from the way Williams lays strewn across a couch to the giddy bounce in her step echo Monroe’s poise. She makes use of the lines given to her and is mesmerizing to watch on the screen.
The most interesting thing viewers will get from the film is a feel for what Monroe was really like. While there have been many movies and biographies describing the troubled life she lived, few managed to capture it so magnificently on screen. Williams brings Monroe’s dark complexities to the surface and certainly delivers. The movie may capture Monroe’s impact on the world around her, but it is truly Williams who brings the character to life.6/10
Natalie Barman / Opinion Editor