My Week With Marilyn (Simon Curtis, 2011): UK / USA

Reviewed by Pamela Carvalho. Viewed at AFI Fest 2011

“My Week With Marilyn”
is based on the memoir by Colin Clark, who, in 1956, at the age of 23, found himself working on the Sir Laurence Olivier film The Prince and the Showgirl, as a third assistant director. Little did Colin know that his life would be turned upside down by one simple casting decision: bringing Marilyn Monroe to London where she would star as the Showgirl opposite Olivier. Monroe was at the height of her fame in 1956. The Prince and the Showgirl was the first movie she produced, along with the first movie she made outside the U.S. Hollywood system. It becomes quickly apparent that Marilyn might be more trouble than she’s worth, constantly arriving late to work and insisting her acting coach Paula Strasberg be right by her side, to help sculpt her rigid method style of acting. While her antics drive everyone on the set away from Marilyn, Colin is continually drawn closer to the screen icon, and as the plot unfolds, we’re brilliantly reminded why and how Marilyn Monroe had the whole world eating out of the palm of her hand.

What I was most surprised about in My Week With Marilyn is how scathingly funny it is, with most of the humor coming from the fantastic Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier during his rants about Marilyn. Screenwriter Adrian Hodges does a fantastic job of balancing the levity of a chaotic movie production with the intriguing relationship that builds between Marilyn and Colin. It is deftly paced at just 99 minutes, and there isn’t a single frame that feels out of place or unnecessary.

Anyone who has seen a Marilyn Monroe movie before will be blown away by Michelle Williams’ voice as Marilyn, which we see right away with her rendition of the song Heat Wave from There’s No Business Like Show Business. Marilyn Monroe’s iconic voice has been parodied countless times throughout the years, in various forms of entertainment and media, but I can’t remember anyone being as spot-on as Michelle Williams in this movie, and not just with her voice, but facial expressions, her flirtatious, suggestive poses she gives when the cameras are around, the whole nine yards. But the beauty of her performance, and this movie as a whole, is it takes us beyond the legend and gives us a real account of what Marilyn Monroe was like as a person, both the good and the bad.

“My Week With Marilyn” manages to give us a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe’s unique allure once more, with a spellbinding performance by Michelle Williams, and a story with the double-edged strength to jerk some tears and split some sides.

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