At age 23, Colin (Redmayne) is struggling to break into the movie business, camping out at the production offices of Laurence Olivier (Branagh), who is just about to start filming the 1957 comedy The Prince and the Showgirl with Marilyn Monroe (Williams). While Marilyn's diva behaviour and strict acting coach (Wanamaker) enrage Laurence, he can't deny that when she gets it right, she's magic. Meanwhile, Colin is assigned to help Marilyn make it through the shoot. And of course he can't help falling for her.
In addition to the central story, subplots and side-characters entertainingly fill out the scenes. Cooper brings terrific bluster as Marilyn's manager, Dench offers acerbic compassion as veteran diva Sybil Thorndike, Watson's costume assistant is a likeable romantic distraction, and so on. Less energetic are Monroe's tortured new husband Arthur Miller (Scott) and Olivier's long-suffering wife Vivien Leigh (Ormond). But the cast is packed with superb actors who bring a lot of fun to the screen with telling glances and biting dialog. And Branagh's sparkling performance steals the film.
Director Curtis beautifully captures the period with a realistic sense of paparazzi interest, the controlled chaos of a film set and intricate backstage antics. The movie has a lively pace that holds our interest, while Williams adds a remarkably emotional counterpoint as she reveals Monroe's inner demons.
Together Curtis and Williams effectively show how this troubled woman is able to stop everyone in their tracks with her sheer presence, even if Williams doesn't have the charisma that everyone mentions when describing Monroe.
But this is only a slight problem: Williams is a great actor even if she never comes across as a glamorous movie icon. We must take everyone's word that they fall under her spell, which makes Clark's memoirs (and the frankly awful voiceover narration) feel like a schoolboy's fantasy that the filmmakers themselves don't really believe. So while the film is thoroughly involving, it also feels like a series of mini-adventures that probably never happened. And if no one's left to confirm the truth, this myth will do nicely.
Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd December 2011
Box Office USA: $14.6M
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Production compaines: The Weinstein Company, BBC Films, Lip Sync Post, Trademark Films, UK Film Council
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 135 Rotten: 26
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Simon Curtis
Producer: David Parfitt
Screenwriter: Adrian Hodges
Starring: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark, Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, Judi Dench as Sybil Thorndike, Emma Watson as Lucy, Pip Torrens as Sir Kenneth Clark, Dominic Cooper as Milton Greene, Geraldine Somerville as Lady Jane Clark, Michael Kitchen as Hugh Perceval, Miranda Raison as Vanessa, Simon Russell Beale as Cotes-Preedy, Toby Jones as Arthur Jacobs, Robert Portal as David Orton, Jim Carter as Barry, Philip Jackson as Roger Smith
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with...
With a spectacular setting and two solid actors on-screen, this thriller builds enough solid suspense...
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...