My Week With Marilyn Movie Review
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.