Monday, December 19, 2011


While watching "My Week with Marilyn," you might find yourself feeling as if you're caught under a spell, a certain magnetism that you can't quite explain. Except that it can be explained. Like Marilyn Monroe herself, Michelle Williams is utterly hypnotic as the iconic screen goddess. The blond bombshell actress -- the woman everyone wanted to either be or be with in the mid-1950s -- had a personality that nobody could figure out, and the performance from Williams doesn't try to. Instead she emanates everything Monroe was about and what it must've felt like for anyone to be in her presence. There's the fact alone that being her was an act itself. In one instance she says, "All people ever see is Marilyn Monroe." Williams deserves an Oscar for embodying the actress effortlessly -- her effervescence, aloofness, mystery, grief and insecurity. She'll most certainly receive a Best Actress nomination.

The film follows the backstage proceedings of filming "The Prince and the Showgirl" (1957) in Pinewood Studios, London. Starring alongside Marilyn Monroe in the picture is Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) who also served as director. One might think working with such a world-renowned celebrity would be a dream and the highest honor, but Olivier clashes with her almost immediately. He is all about proficiency and the technicality of filmmaking and has no patience for Marilyn. There's always a delay whether she's not feeling well, she's sick, hungover or too tired. She's never on time, and when she does arrive she trips over her lines and doesn't believe in the character she's playing. But when she finally gets it right, her screen presence sings.

Everyone working on the film fully knows Monroe is difficult, but only Olivier has the nerve and audacity to blow up about it to her face. Branagh gives an important performance here as a man who's a genius in the film industry but is hardly in love with it. And when forced to put up with Marilyn's behavior, this immovable object that everyone adores and loves -- he can't bear it. Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker) is Marilyn's personal acting coach she brings along who coddles her, boosts her self-esteem and counteracts Olivier's direction. There's also Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) who understands the director's frustration but also knows how to delicately handle Marilyn's sensitivity.

The biggest focus, however, is on the relationship between Marilyn and the impressionable 23-year-old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) who was the gofer on the project. The movie is based on his memoirs and gives the film a fascinating perspective. Colin landed in between the Olivier and Monroe camps taking note of everyone and letting the backstage pass experience soak in. This unique position also sparked Marilyn's interest in him to hear what everyone thought of her.

The film captures Marilyn's absolute allure, the light she radiated and what it must've been like for Colin when she kissed him and said she loved him -- even if she didn't mean it. Everyone warns Colin to not get himself involved, but instead of dating the nice wardrobe girl (Emma Watson's first role since playing Hermoine in the "Harry Potter" series), he becomes enraptured by Marilyn. Redmayne captures a naive awe that makes us feel what he must've felt in the era. The power of the film, and of course Williams' performance at its center, is the way it makes you believe this luminous woman's ability to have such a profound impact on people's lives.

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