The mere thought of another movie based on Marilyn Monroe (‘Marilyn and Me’, ‘Marilyn & Bobby: Her Final Affair’, ‘Norma Jean & Marilyn’) might send shivers down the spine of many admirers and cinephiles who chide at the feeble attempts from Hollywood to recreate The Blonde Bombshell’s essence on screen. But ‘My Week with Marilyn’ should be the elixir to any and all types of derision. It is by far the best film of Monroe to ever be put on celluloid, mainly, due to the performance of Michelle Williams. She is Marilyn Monroe for all intents and purposes, and her performance will most assuredly be recognized by the Oscars with a nomination.
The movie is based on Colin Clark’s two memoirs – ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’ and ‘My Week with Marilyn’. He was the third assistant director on the set of ‘The Prince and the Showgirl’, Marilyn Monroe’s first film as both producer and star in which she played opposite Sir Laurence Olivier, who also directed. The book recounts the production’s myriad problems, fueled almost exclusively by the lack of communication and understanding between the two stars: Monroe’s erratic behavior and tardiness were exacerbated by her addiction to alcohol and prescription medication; while Olivier, a staunch traditionalist, refused to accommodate Monroe‟s idiosyncrasies or her devotion to Method acting, which she practiced under the guidance of Paula Strasberg. In the second memoir, Clark affectionately remembers one enchanted week he spent leading the troubled Monroe on a tour of the English countryside. It offers an all-too-rare glimpse of the real woman beneath the carefully cultivated image, unencumbered by the busy machinery of stardom.
At its core, the film’s best attribute is its plotline. It is one of the most appealing and interesting stories of the year in film. I mean, how did a world-famous movie superstar at the height of her fame end up spending an intimate week traveling across England with a gopher from her film set? This is the stuff that men dream of everyday. Monroe’s clashes with Olivier, her anxiety about her marriage to Arthur Miller and her own insecurities about her talent made her deeply vulnerable. She was in need of a friend and through a series of incidents, she became very close and intimate in a platonic way with Colin Clark. He was always there and was non-threatening.
What also is undebatable is Michelle Williams performance. One of the toughest tasks asked by any director of his actresses is to embody Ms. Monroe. No one has been able to do it without evading some level of scorn, except Williams. She’s so good that the talk amongst many film critics, including myself, is that only Meryl Streep in ‘The Iron Lady’, can depose her of a Best Actress award at next year’s Oscar ceremony. Williams success lies in her ability to bring Marilyn to life by extracting all her complexities such as her mannerisms, vulnerabilities, diffidence, sexiness and vocal nuances. She did this while never raching the levels of impersonation.
Director Simon Curtis and scribe Adrian Hodges have done an excellent job in deftly capturing “the real Monroe” in her heyday, the backstage controversies of a movie shoot and an innocent love story. ‘My Week with Marilyn’ is one of my favorite movies of 2011. It awoke a dormant curiosity in me to know more about the surroundings of her death, what she really meant to the world and give her acting career another look. Was she really a great actress and not just a blonde bimbo? Fortunately for many of you, this film does a stupendous job in getting closer to that answer. If you love the 50’s, glamour and romance, and of course, curious about Marilyn Monroe herself, then don’t hesitate to watch this delightful and intriguing piece of film.