My Week With Marilyn
Marilyn Monroe was seen by some, surely jealous, women as a bit of a slut, seen by some, surely jaw-agaped, men as classy and generally seen as sexy by most regardless of their gender, but mainly she was just seen by everyone, all the time. In this day and age that it perhaps not such a big deal, but back in the fifties such voyeurism was a shock and the sign of sure perversion, but it was what the people wanted and so it was what the press would provide. After all this was not a mere woman, she was a star in an almost literal sense and her work in a multitude of classic Hollywood movies is only half of the reason why. Her work in those films should not, however, be discredited any by that fact; they are frequently fantastic and she was obviously fantastic enough in them to start the crushing cycle depicted in this, one of her best, My Week With Marilyn.
Of course this is not technically a part of Monroe’s oeuvre, but it stands as a testament to it. Even all this time after her tragic death Marilyn is still staring in movies, she’s just doing it as a character played by some other actress, such is the potency of her image and iconoclasm. There is though something very classical about this film, so as it could almost have been a part of her period. It is cinema made with class like it was in the old days, an old school style of movie about old school movies. The story of course is that of the filming of The Sleeping Prince, or The Prince and the Showgirl as it came to be known; one of Marilyn’s more daring efforts in that it was an entirely English production helmed by Sir Laurence Olivier. This conceit of course only proves most of all the way that we human beings love to watch; one layer of film is still too much distance for us, we want to strip it down further and add another level of detail to our viewing experience. It’s scoptophilia, as they say in that other classic from the Commonwealth.
Though it both evokes and explains these pictures of the past My Week With Marilyn still stands alone as its own film. It works without all that history, even without any of the name recognition: the characters are clearly drawn and in loving detail, the premise is a perfectly pitched one and the script sings; that it all happens to also be true is little more than a lucky accident, though this extra layer certainly serves to make the movie all the more magnificent to those movie lovers in the audience. This film is an emotional ride akin to the greatest achievements of old movie melodrama: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and for two hours you’ll be in another world, just one that happens to hang so very close to our own. Most importantly though it doesn’t just have the heart that modern movies seem mostly to be missing, but it finds it’s way also into yours and yanks it softly into two, Marilyn’s story is a moving one.
The construction of the film is also of that heavenly high class. Curtis’ debut attempt at feature direction is delicate and undetectable to the uninformed eye; the images themselves are stunning enough that often all he has to do to overwhelm us is keep them in focus, and he does a fine job of that. Eddie Redmayne’s role is much the same; sure he is its protagonist but by no means does that mean he is the focus of the picture. His characters is how we peek in behind the curtain and it is his eyes that we see all the secrets of cinema through but he’s not much of a character in his own right; nor is he ever all that noticeable, let alone memorable on the screen. That though is not so much a flaw as it may at first sound, because the two performers beside him – both in the film and in real life – are both so big and broken that he could never compete with them for our interest and would in fact be wrong to try to.
Those two are of course the Prince and the Showgirl themselves, Marilyn and Olivier, Williams and Branagh. The performances that this pair put in here are worthy of the thespians they play and I would be more than willing to see either gifted with an Oscar come that time of year. The theatrical inflection, bold presence and penchant for shouting lines from Shakespearean drama that Branagh has as Sir. Laurence is ludicrous, providing plenty of laughs but more importantly it feels inherently true and human; I can’t imagine that Olivier would speak in any such way besides that. Ironically enough, given how their styles are depicted in the film itself, while Branagh should blow us away with the craft and cognition in his acting, William’s simply saunters on screen as Marilyn and steals your eye and the show entire. Michelle Williams manages to convey Marilyn masterfully without speaking or singing a word; that she does those superbly too is superfluous because her look, her eyes, her physicality and hell, her body as a whole sell you instantly on the sex and the soul of her character.
And what a character! There was a time last year where it seemed that we were going to be getting too many projects based around the original bombshell but so far what i’ve seen has simply whet my appetite for her. This is but one week in the life of a woman who managed to make an unmeasurable impact over multiple years of her large life; much of which is only hinted at here, if that. So if this is any indication of the quality then i say bring them all on! Carry this cast over to Blonde and have Andrew Dominick put his spin on another special period, say her first few features, then move onto some other director; so long as Michelle plays Marilyn in each of the movies, ’cause I tell ya I could watch that girl forever, for me she now is Marilyn and I’ve loved her work for a long time.
My Week With Marilyn is a movie that definitely won’t be seen by all and probably won’t even be seen by many – man or women – but it is such a well made movie – which may not have been much of a shock back then but means a lot now – and mirrors the woman so well in every other element that it certainly deserves to match her popularity as well. Whether or not you love Marilyn’s movies, if you like good movies then you’re more than likely to love this one. See it.