Audiences prefer blondes
In the summer of 1956, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a 23-year-old Oxford graduate determined to make a name for himself in the film business, earned work as a “third” (third assistant to the director) on the picture The Prince and the Showgirl.
The film famously united British and American acting royalty with the on-screen pairing of Sir Laurence Oliver (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). It would later become infamous for the lack of chemistry between the leading stars who were by all accounts severely incompatible.
Directed by Simon Curtis and written by Adrian Hodges, My Week With Marilyn is the true story of the fleeting relationship between Clark and Monroe during the filming of the movie.
Monroe, newly married to playwright Arthur Miller, takes a liking to the young Clark as he is there for her during some of her vulnerable low points, which play in the film as episodes of depression.
In 1995, Colin Clark published his diaries from his time working on the film and in 2002 published a further memoir — on which this film is based — depicting his week with Marilyn when her husband Arthur Miller was away.
The standout scenes of the film are the intermittent clips from The Prince and The Showgirl, in which Branagh and Williams star as Oliver and Monroe.
Each is enchanting in their portrayals and these scenes are a joy to watch.
Branagh revives the essence of Sir Laurence Oliver perhaps most clearly when he is fuming over Monroe’s lateness, or discrediting her method acting indulgences, showing the wide divide between the ideologies of British and American theatre.
If art mirrors life it is certainly true in this film; Michelle Williams provides a captivating performance as Monroe and stole the show from her talented co-stars. She was childlike in her vulnerability but also very aware of the power deriven from her sex-symbol status.
“Should I be her?” Williams asks Clark at one point in the film, in a moment transforming into the celebrity for a group of photographers.
The film succeeded in communicating the complexity of her celebrity, as well as her struggles with insecurity and dedication to “method” acting. Williams truly transformed into the bombshell star; the movie saw most male characters falling head over heels for Monroe, and it was no stretch of the imagination to believe Williams would have the same effect.
Yet despite a seasoned cast of A-List actors including Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Emma Watson and Dougray Scott, My Week With Marilyn failed to provide the level of entertainment one would expect from a film about such an epic and exciting life.
Especially considering the film is the first of its kind. My only qualm with the picture is that the viewer comes away with nothing. Monroe as a star remains an utter mystery about whom essentially nothing is revealed. The film perpetuates the iconic vision of the star; hand over her mouth, skirt blowing in the wind.
She is portrayed as she is remembered, as a one-dimensional symbol of beauty.
Only when we see Monroe in her bed, dazed from drug use, confused and sad, are we given intimations of the end that would come.