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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

My Week With Marilyn | Eddie Redmayne, Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench | Review

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My Week With Marilyn

Legendary movie sex symbol and icon Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, at the age of 36, way before her time. Throughout the years, there have been countless books published about her life, as well as TV documentaries, biographies and interviews with those who knew her. Five decades have gone by since her passing, yet the fascination with the blonde bombshell, who was in a class all her own, has not died down.

One person, who was lucky enough to become acquainted with and discover the real person behind the “celebrity image” was Colin Clark who passed away in 2002. Directed by Simon Curtis from a script written by Adrian Hodges, 'My Week With Marilyn' is based on a series of memoirs by Colin Clark. How much is factual is questionable, since most of the people who could verify his story are dead and gone.

Colin Clark (played admirably by Eddie Redmayne) dreamed of working in the film industry to the dismay of his wealthy, aristocratic family. In 1956, he was an Oxford graduate and just 23 years old when his dream came true, and he landed his first job in what his father referred to as “running off to the circus”, working as third assistant director, which was basically a glorified title for “gofer”, on the film The Prince and the Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe and Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who was also the director. Marilyn (Michelle Williams) was only 30 at the time and on her honeymoon with playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) when she flew to England to work on the movie set at Pinewood Studios.

There was already trouble brewing in her new marriage, which only helped to fuel the fire of her insecurity and need to be loved. From the moment she arrived on the set, she proved to be difficult, repeatedly showing up late, flubbing lines and was a “method” actress which infuriated Olivier. Only with the help and support of famed acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker) who was by Marilyn's side to help her focus and pump up her ego by telling her she was the greatest actress ever, was Marilyn able to make it through a scene.

There was something about Colin that caught the attention of Marilyn and she proceeded to make him her confidant, close friend, companion and someone she could trust, during the week that her husband was away in New York. According to Clark's recollections, he neglected Lucy (Emma Watson, from the Harry Potter films) the pretty wardrobe girl he had begun to date, and instead spent some quality time with Marilyn, visiting Windsor Castle, where his godfather was librarian, going to the lake, where they supposedly skinny dipped, and was by her side to witness her being mobbed by fans. Totally infatuated with the star, he fancied himself her love interest, though he was definitely out of her league.

The buzz is that Williams is a front runner for 2011's Best Actress Oscar. In my opinion, her performance is overrated. Williams does a commendable job conveying MM's childlike vulnerability, insecurities and fears, but I never believed I was watching the real person brought to life. Williams is a fine actress, but she doesn't look like Marilyn, lacked her distinct facial mannerisms, and could not capture her unique “magic” and smoldering sexuality that lit up the screen.

I was more impressed by Branagh who is well cast and excellent as Olivier, the meticulous thespian with a huge ego and short temper. Dame Judi Dench, who is always pitch perfect, once again strikes a memorable chord as matronly actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, offering a sympathetic kind heart and words towards Marilyn whom she understood as fragile and scared.

Unfortunately, Julia Ormond falls way short of filling the role of Vivien Leigh, Olivier's beautiful actress wife that was fearful her husband would have an affair with Marilyn. The poorly cast, Ormond looks nothing like Leigh and appears much older than she was supposed to be at the time.

There really isn't anything insightful about MM to learn from 'My Week With Marilyn' that fans of the late star didn't already know. We may never learn whether Clark's recollections are laced with boyish fantasies, but factual or not, his shared memories are at least mildly entertaining.

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