While watching the rough cut of a Marilyn Monroe movie, Dominic Cooper who plays the producer says ‘When she gets a scene right, there is no point in watching anyone else’. In My Week with Marilyn Michelle Williams follows up her stunning turns in Blue Valentine and Meek’s Cutoff with a fantastic performance as Monroe, effortlessly duplicating her smile, delicate voice and mannerisms. And just like the legendary character she plays, you can’t pay attention to anything else in this film, even though Williams is paired with the likes of Kenneth Branagh and Judy Dench.
My Week with Marilyn is based on a memoir by Colin Clark, and it chronicles the tumultuous 1956 making of The Prince and the Showgirl, the first Monroe production starring herself opposite Sir Laurence Olivier who also directed the film. Clark, then a 23-year-old aspiring filmmaker (played by Eddie Redmayne) is hired as an assistant director by Sir Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) for the film shoot. Monroe and Olivier straightaway get into on-set conflicts because of her constant late arrivals, stumbling lines and their apparent clashing styles of the Strasberg way of method acting and English stage technique. However the real problem is that Monroe, the confident media darling and powerful star is in fact a drug abusing weak mess of nerves, inferiority complex and peculiarities.
Clark develops an infatuation for Monroe who treats him as a much needed friendly companion to help her cope with her loneliness and self-loathing. She likes the fact that he sees her soul, when most others look at her as a saucy sex object. He eventually becomes the middle-man between Monroe and Olivier, and brings Monroe to the realization that "Olivier is a great actor who wants to be a film star, and you're a film star who wants to be a great actor. This film won't help either of you”. Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as the maestro who faces the bitter truth about his own age and the fact that that he is making a forgettable movie. Branagh perfectly matches Sir Olivier’s charmingly condescending voice and vanity. Eddie Redmayne is passable as Clark, though his romantic subplot with a costume girl (Emma Watson) seems out of place and unnecessary.
Right from the first scene where she sings ‘When Love Goes Wrong’, Michelle Williams locks on to an Oscar nomination. In fact she is so convincing that you wonder if Monroe would’ve played herself so well. It takes more than just a blonde wig and lipstick to capture Monroe’s charisma and Williams demonstrates that she had done her homework. There is nothing groundbreaking about My Week with Marilyn, it doesn’t shed any new light on the life of Monroe, but it certainly deserves a watch for the performances.
(First published in MiD Day)