(Simon Curtis, 2011, UK)
My Week With Marilyn, a film that charts the tumultuous true story behind the making of Laurence Olivier’s would-be classic The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), is packed with so much talent and ambition that it ultimately fails at taking them passed its own sense of enamour at its central protagonist. Michelle Williams embodies Marilyn Monroe effortlessly, capturing her glistening blue eyes, sultry voice and giddy charisma, a far cry from tough-minded roles in last year’s Blue Valentine (2010) and Kelly Reichardt’s muted Meeks Cutoff (2010), yet she is inundated with a script that places her so high on a proverbial pedestal that the film ends up being more of a mawkish celebration than a much needed character study.
Adapted from Colin Clark’s published diary of the same name, the film sees Monroe struggling with her own personal demons both on and off the set of Olivier’s camp picture, suffering the thespian’s diva-esque outbursts and irritable mood swings whilst doubting her abilities at becoming a great actress rather than just an alluring movie star. Eddie Redmayne plays Clark in a particularly one-note performance, displaying his likable everyman through a series of pouts and forced pearls of wisdom that hint at the assistant director’s rose-tinted, romanticised commemoration of the past. We can never be certain about what really happened between the star and her ally, but their whisked romance dominates a plot more interesting focused upon Monroe’s numerous fluffed takes and her interaction with stars the likes of Vivien Leigh (the underused Julia Ormand), sympathetic Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) and indeed Olivier, who’s alluded infatuation is hinted at but never explored, much like her patchy marriage to Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott).
Although Simon Curtis’s frothy debut feature acquires the cream of the British acting crop, they are rendered totally superfluous not just by Williams’s resounding performance, but also by Monroe’s captivating personality, a personality that overshadows a film failing to be as fizzy and fascinating as her.