“My Week With Marilyn” is the feature adaptation of the book by the same name, written by Colin Clark. Clark penned the book by using his own journal, which he wrote while working on the set of the 1957 film “The Prince and the Showgirl,” starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. His book focuses on one particular week of production, in which he became extremely close with Hollywood’s biggest star and was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover the real Marilyn Monroe.
With “My Week With Marilyn,” newcomer Eddie Redmayne takes on his first real starring role as inspiring filmmaker Colin Clark. Desperate to work in the movie industry, Clark relentlessly pursues a job at Laurence Olivier Productions and eventually lands the role of third assistant director on Olivier’s latest picture, “The Prince and the Showgirl.” The film – set to star Marilyn Monroe (Williams) and Laurence Olivier (Branagh) – is seen as an important step in both actors’ careers. Monroe hopes that appearing in a film with Olivier will help her be taken more seriously as an actress, and Olivier hopes that appearing alongside Monroe can help resurrect his declining career.
Writers: Adrian Hodges, Colin Clark (books)
Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh, Emma Watson
However, it doesn’t take long for the two stars to clash on set. Olivier, a very external actor, can’t stand Monroe’s method approach to acting and her need for acting coach Paula Strasberg (played by Zoë Wanamaker) to be constantly by her side. His patience his further strained by Monroe’s habitual lateness and fairly constant emotional breakdowns, which frequently delay production for hours at a time. Amidst the tension of the production, Colin Clark suddenly makes a connection with Marilyn. She takes a liking to the youthful young man and eventually drops her guard, letting him into her private world that so few people ever got the chance to see.
In “My Week With Marilyn,” excellent performances abound, with an exceptional turn by Kenneth Branagh and impressive leading-man material from Eddie Redmayne. Branagh himself is similar to Olivier in so many ways that it seems so right that he finally portray the British movie titan. But of course everybody will be talking about Michelle Williams for her effortless transformation into Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe. From the beginning of the film to the very last frame, you never even seen Williams – its as if you’re seeing Monroe, come back to life for one final farewell appearance. Be sure to expect Williams’ name on this year’s Oscar ballot – she will certainly be a strong contendor for this year’s Best Actress in a Leading Role with this performance.
But “My Week With Marilyn” offers far more than stellar acting, telling a troubling tale of celebrity that sadly transcends generations and still remains relevant in this day and age. Watching Monroe struggle with the emotional roller coaster of being the world’s biggest icon brings memories of contemporary stars whose lives were also tragically cut short. Though this story takes place over forty years ago, everything these characters face is applicable to today’s entertainment industry and our generation of icons.
What’s also refreshing about this film is that, similar to movies like “Frost/Nixon” and “The Queen,” “My Week With Marilyn” focuses on just a snippet of Monroe’s life. The film doesn’t waste time on Marilyn’s childhood, her rise to fame, or the period of her life leading up to her death. Instead it explores who she really was and what she was like when she stepped out of the spotlight. Through Colin Clark, the audience is given an unprecedented look at the private life of Marilyn Monroe.
Comparisons are already being made to last year’s “The King’s Speech,” and though “Marilyn” is a different film in many ways, it shares at least one rewarding similarity with “Speech.” Both films have a way of making you really care about the main character, regardless of whether you knew anything about them prior to seeing the film. As awards season approaches, Team Marilyn can only hope for the success that “The King’s Speech” had a year ago. Despite how the film ends up performing at the Oscars, “My Week With Marilyn” is easily one of this year’s best pictures.