My Week With Marilyn: an homage to actors

My Week With Marilyn, the new feature adaptation of Colin Clark’s memoir of the same name, has been receiving a lot of buzz prior to its debut today — especially in terms of its leading lady, Michelle Williams, in the title role of Marilyn Monroe.

First-time feature director Simon Curtis at the Screen Actor’s Guild screening said he “could not have been more proud of Michelle.” The movie follows the true story of Colin Clark as a 23-year-old Brit who longing to work in Hollywood, lands a gig on the set of The Prince and The Showgirl (1957), starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh).

As the director put it, the film exposes three sides of Marilyn: the character of Elsie in The Prince and The Showgirl, the public Marilyn and the very private Marilyn whom Clark got to know on set for the shoot and very intimately for one week in real life.

Not your typical biopic, the movie seems at its most candid as it portrays a story seen only through Colin’s eager and innocent eyes. And with his pure gaze, he, as well as we, fall in love with Marilyn, only to be afflicted by the pitfalls and tragedy of her story.

Beautifully shot in the picturesque landscapes of the English countryside and elegant metropolis of London, the director painted a very bleak, old-world England, still wounded by the devastation of war as a comparable contrast to the color and glamour that Marilyn infuses.

Although many had their reservations before seeing the film about whether Michelle Williams would be able to capture Marilyn, arguably the most iconic Hollywood star of all time, Williams so elegantly and faithfully portrayed her that the entire theater was beaming with Oscar nomination predictions.

Kenneth Branagh was equally fantastic as the aging Sir Laurence Olivier, who, at first, hoping to absorb some of Marilyn’s youth and star, becomes her biggest rival on set. He captured Olivier so wittily and spot on he was unrecognizable. In the lead as the star-struck Colin, Eddie Redmayne was excellent as the sensitive and endearing heart of the film, his performance on par with the rest of the expert cast: Judi Dench, Julia Ormond and Emma Watson. Curtis interpreted My Week With Marilyn as an actor’s film. What attracted him to the piece was not specifically that it was about Marilyn Monroe, but that it demanded great nuances in its portrayal of actors. Monroe is the star who cannot escape the photographers and the cameras and desperately longs to be a great actress, while Olivier, the great actor, longs to be a star, to possess that organic quality Monroe had by just being in front of the camera. The film explores different types of acting meeting and conflicting: Monroe’s Hollywood method and Olivier’s English theater pantomimic background, as well as, the hardships of being a performer. Not only does Marilyn have her struggles, but so do Olivier and his wife, Vivien Leigh (Ormond). An homage to actors, the picture is clearly an actor’s game, expecting the most subtle differences from Williams in depicting the three shades of Marilyn. The piece is extremely character-driven and a wonderful taste of Old Hollywood history. Evidently destined for fans of Marilyn Monroe and Old Hollywood in general, the piece is extremely enjoyable for those seeking moving, character-driven English melodramas and features a dash of dry English humor.