“The Prince, The Showgirl and Me” A Review Of “My Week With Marilyn” (2011)

WARNING: **SPOILERS INCLUDED**

  • Directed By Simon Curtis
  • Written By Adrian Hodges and Colin Clark (Book)

Conspiracy and enigma are two notions that have always surrounded one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses Marilyn Monroe; therefore fabricating some sort of fantastical ideology of her would appear ignorant from a film perspective. “My Week With Marilyn” defied this. Unlike the other major biopic film of recent “The Iron Lady”, “My Week…” managed to capture a strong balance between the public persona of Marilyn and a more human side told from the perspective of a young man named Colin Clark who knew her for a brief time yet impacted him greatly. There were no assumptions being made as it was based off his experience as told in his book “The Prince, The Showgirl, and Me”. Through this tactic of the film focusing on one chapter of her life, it managed to tell the audience a great deal about Marilyn Monroe more than a film about her entire life would.  However the film doesn’t tell Marilyn’s story, the key focus is on Colin’s journey and how his experience in the film industry and meeting the world’s most famous actress shaped him. The film proved to be more than an insightful biopic, it acts as a story of first love and loss, it questions the notion of perception and highlights the pressures of the 1950’s film industry.

Cleverly the film opens with a re-enactment of Marilyn performing “Heat Wave” from the 1954 film “There’s No Business like Show Business” with Colin (Eddie Redmayne) watching her in awe from a cinema screen achieving a sense of identification between him and the audience of the star persona of who Marilyn was. The scene creates a fitting opening contrasting the glamour of the cinema world with the harsh reality of what is to come later in the film as well as demonstrating Colin’s naivety during the beginning. It is then learned that Colin is a determined character and is prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve his dream of working within the film industry. The knock-backs he first receives don’t seem to phase him as he remains persistent until he gets the opportunity to work on Sir Laurence Olivier’s film as an assistant director. Even though Colin holds a sense of naivety and optimism he makes an interesting and likeable protagonist as the audience wonders if he will have what it takes to deal with the pressures of working with the fame and talent of the day. The seediness of the industry is conveyed when Vivian Leigh (Julia Ormond) elaborates about the extra-marital affairs that occur in show business and that it appears just as much apart of it as making the films.

The majority focuses on Colin’s perception of Marilyn. Her presence is absolutely intriguing as there are so many dimensions to her and she is definitely more than what meets the eye. Michelle Williams gives an incredible yet uncanny performance that brings her to life in so many ways. By the film’s end conflict is left in terms of reaching a judgement of her portrayal; Marilyn could walk into a room and eyes would be on only her, she caused friction among her colleagues as well as everyone who associated with her but at the same time appeared extremely child-like, lost and lonely. It is ambiguous as to whether she wanted to live a normal life or bask in the fame and adoration she received from the public. Marilyn will always remain a mystery. Did she cling on to the fame as it was all she knew and she believed she could not survive without it? Or did she really love the attention that surrounded her and act on vulnerability? Could the notion be true that she was one of the best actresses that ever lived? By the end the audience are none the wiser and the question remains: “Who Was Marilyn Monroe?”

As well as Michelle Williams, the entire cast did a fantastic job of bringing the stars of the past to life, particularly Dame Judi Dench who acted wise and empathetically as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Kenneth Branagh gave an interesting performance as Sir Laurence Olivier creating a sense of conflict as a frustrated director, naive to the workings of the film industry over the theatre . There were moments when it was uncertain as to whether Marilyn was behaving in a manipulative manner to gain sympathy over Olivier’s authority that ignited tension throughout the film. Honourable mentions to to Zoe Wanamaker as Marylin’s coach Paula Strasberg, Dominic Cooper as the bitter Milton Greene and “Harry Potter” Star Emma Watson in the small role of wardrobe girl Lucy.

The film gave Marilyn so many layers that combined with the themes of the film itself. There were moments of comedy and romance partiularly when Colin takes her to Windsor Castle and gives her a taste of normality. Contrasting were moments of despair and conflict especially the scenes where Marilyn would entice Colin to support her in her hours of need. Overall it managed to achieve a raw tone without sugar coating any aspects. The ending is bittersweet as Colin has learned a great deal about life, about the career he wants and has grown up over the course of the film positively.

“My Week With Marilyn” is Dramatic, Moving and Bittersweet…Definitely a biopic worth seeing!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Check Out ArcLight Cinema’s Interview with Kenneth Branagh:

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