My Week With Marilyn
Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench
Fordham University '15
"I am Ozymandias, king of kings: look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" -Percy Bysshe Shelley
My Week With Marilyn
Review By: Kieran Newton
So, I wrote a review for My Week With Marilyn back before it came out—just a film review, not a BluRay—and had a few nagging issues with it. For my second viewing, a few of those issues were assuaged, but they mostly stayed the same. I give you my original take, and will include my revisions at the end.
The film is based on the two memoirs of Colin Clark (played in the film by Eddie Redmayne), The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me, published back in 1995, and the more recent work of the same title as the film. The idea is that during the beginning weeks of the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, there were tensions between Monroe (played by Michelle Williams) and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), each coming to the set with a very different perspective on filmmaking and acting in general. After awhile, Monroe becomes attached to Clark, and the love story writes itself from there. It’s a pretty stock narrative—up-and-comer and big star fall for one another, complications ensue—but it is at the very least executed quite well.
The acting is simultaneously the best and worst parts of the movie. On the one hand, you have Kenneth Branagh, who is phenomenal as Olivier (big shocker there), and more importantly, you have Michelle Williams, who does a very good job of giving one of the best representations of Marilyn Monroe probably ever. She’s coy, she’s flirtatious, and she seems constantly surprised by all the attention she’s receiving, until the shell cracks and her many demons start to break through. I’m not going to lie, it’s a performance that is quite “big” by today’s standards, but that’s likely more the work of director Simon Curtis than Williams, and regardless, you don’t care, because Monroe was totally larger than life. Seeing as she is the core of the film, it’s very important that she be excellent, and thankfully, she totally is.
However, on the more lackluster side of things you have Emma Watson, who completely underwhelms as the utterly unnecessary character Lucy, one of the girls in the costume department, and woefully more importantly, you have Eddie Redmayne as blandy-mc-whitebread blandypants Colin Clark: he’s the runt of his very rich family! He’s classically handsome! He’s Anglo-Saxon! He kisses everybody’s ass! He falls in love with a movie star! He’s every generic hero written in the past fifty bloody years!
Perhaps I’m being too hard on poor Mr. Redmayne. Perhaps the script, penned by Adrian Hodges and based on Clark’s books, was truly generic. It sure had some other flaws, such as a completely extraneous beginning and ending narration which made me want to punch the movie in the face, and (as I mentioned above) the side-love-story involving Emma Watson’s character, who, at the end of the movie, neither consoles the rejected hero (thankfully—there’s only so
It’s an odd film in that it tries very, very hard to make you like it. Every character is completely unoffensive, Judi Dench almost exploding with nicety. I’m not exactly sure why the movie is rated ‘R’, to be honest—besides the rare utterance of f#ck, the movie is really pretty safe. There is a lot of sensuality in the film—it is a movie about Marilyn Monroe, after all—but it’s all very tastefully done, the movie never crossing any lines or breaking any boundaries. That doesn’t mean it’s not a satisfying view, but it does mean that it isn’t particularly striking in any way, with the exception of Williams’ performance.
The film, to be blunt, is indulgent in every nonsexual way. It melodramatizes the struggles of Monroe as an emotionally needy young woman, some of the dialogue between her and Clark almost painful. It has a script with way too many words and not nearly enough charged silences. I’m not saying it’s not a good movie, because despite its problems, you like it; you really do. It’s nearly impossible not to, because it’s almost offensively inoffensive and speaks directly to the part of everyone that never quite grew out of that childhood celebrity crush. It offers a good fulfillment of that, but otherwise, it’s a tad one dimensional.
So, now, on BluRay, for my second viewing, what do I think? Well, Eddie Redmayne, I guess you’re okay—in fact, you do a pretty darn good job. Michelle, I still love you. Special features, I’m disappointed in you. The disc sports a featurette about the story and the nefarious director commentary. Blech. If you’re in it for an easy-to-watch movie, go ahead. Otherwise, meh.