Movie Review #768 | Alexander Diminiano
‘My Week with Marilyn’ is a rather obvious biopic, with a performance by Michelle Williams that holds onto our attention.
Directed by Simon Curtis. Screenplay by Adrian Hodges. (Books: Colin Clark.) Produced by David Parfitt and Harvey Weinstein for Trademark Films, presented by The Weinstein Company and BBC Films, in association with Lipsync Productions, made with the support of UK Film Council. Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Julia Ormond, Kenneth Branagh, Pip Torrens, Geraldine Somerville, Michael Kitchen, Miranda Raison, and Karl Moffatt. Premiered at New York Film Festival on October 9, 2011. Distributed by The Weinstein Company in limited release on November 23, 2011; and in wide release on December 23, 2011. Also released in the UK on November 25, 2011. Rated R: some language. Runs 99 minutes.
I’m sure that we all know two things about Marilyn Monroe right off the bat. One, she was beautiful, and two, she was the ultimate train wreck. Therefore “My Week with Marilyn” doesn’t really inform us any more than we already know, but of course it’s more fit to entertain than it is to detail every last aspect of the actress’s life. We discover that she enjoyed a week long sexual relationship with the third assistant director (do they even exist?) when she was working on the set of “The Prince and the Showgirl” for director Laurence Olivier in London. Not that the relationship or its length comes as a surprise anyway.
What does come as a surprise is Michelle Williams’s performance as the leading lady. Maybe her role is too dark for such a frothy comedy like “My Week with Marilyn”, but if so, that’s an issue with the writing, not Ms. Williams’s performance. Every nuance of Williams’s delivery speaks to who Monroe was as both an actress and a woman who was driven insane by her own stardom. Of course Kenneth Branagh is superb, additionally, as Sir Laurence Olivier. While it’s definitely not the best performance of Branagh’s career, it’s got to be nothing short of his dream role. Olivier and Branagh are just all too much alike. I’d even go as far as saying that Branagh is a reincarnate form of Olivier, since they’re both actors turned directors, they’re both widely considered among the best British actors and British directors of their respective times, they’re both obsessed with Shakespeare, they’re both extremely theatrical…should I go on? This is a 2011 movie, and Branagh has been around since the 1990s. If nothing else, it’s about time Branagh landed this role.
There’s little to the movie without its performances, and Michelle Williams is the star of this show. She’s in half the movie, at an estimate, and she has our attention whenever she comes onscreen. She works in the role, because let’s be honest, can there really be a good Marilyn Monroe movie unless everybody is playing second fiddle to Marilyn Monroe? Though your interest in the movie itself might depend on your interest in Marilyn Monroe. “My Week with Marilyn” is merely a standard biopic beyond Williams’s performance and a sturdy script by Adrian Hodges. The film was released just two weeks after “J. Edgar” and five weeks before “The Iron Lady”, both which, like “My Week with Marilyn”, were decent biopics defined by the lead performances. It’s a question as to whether you’d rather watch Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, or Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. ✴