Susan Granger’s review of “My Week With Marilyn” (The Weinstein Company)
What’s extraordinary about this charming cinematic memoir is Michelle Williams’ captivating performance as Marilyn Monroe.
In the summer of 1956, a 23 year-old, upper-class aristocrat, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), was determined to get into the movie business. Through a family connection, he managed to become a lowly third-assistant director, running errands for Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who was directing and starring in the film version of Terence Rattigan’s play “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a vehicle which he’d previously performed on-stage with his wife, Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond). But now the most famous movie star in the world, Marilyn Monroe, was going to play opposite him, along with famous British actress Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench).
Arriving in London with her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), and possessive Method acting coach, Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), Marilyn (Michelle Williams) was terrified. Sensing his sensitivity to her plight, she turns to bright-eyed, young Colin for comfort, particularly during an idyllic week in the country. There are clues that indicate they had a sexual encounter – with fragile yet manipulative Marilyn as the seductress – but that’s not pivotal to the plot, except to explain why dazzled Colin’s ostensible girl-friend, Lucy (Emma Watson), gets fed up with him.
Adapted by Adrian Hodges from documentary filmmaker Colin Clark’s book and superficially directed by British TV veteran Simon Curtis, it’s, essentially, one-dimensional, filled with cinematic clichés. Yet Michelle Williams so completely channels Marilyn Monroe’s ethereal appeal that her perfectly nuanced performance is dramatically compelling and totally captivating, particularly when her natural spontaneity is contrasted with Kenneth Branagh’s unctuous, disciplined demeanor.
1967’s “The Prince and the Showgirl” turned out to be one of Marilyn’s last and least successful films before her death in 1962, at the age of 36. But it did earn her Italy’s prestigious David di Donatello award, as well as BAFTA recognition as Best Foreign Actress
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “My Week With Marilyn” is a stunning 7, providing impudent, entertaining observations about a screen icon.