If I were to sum up this film, I would leave it at the following statement: Michelle Williams owns this picture. In fact, much like Monroe herself did nearly 60 years ago, Williams’ presence is like a supernova, absorbing all that is around her, leaving little room for others to shine when in her path.
My Week With Marilyn is based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, The Prince and the Showgirl and Me. At the age of 23, Colin was the 3rd Assistant Director of the film, The Sleeping Prince itself a play starring Sir Laurence Olivier and then-wife Vivien Leigh (played by Kenneth Branagh and Julia Ormond, respectively). While the accuracy and detail of his writings is something to be debated, one thing is for sure – the story has the makings of an interesting movie.
And although it is called My WEEK With Marilyn, the film does in fact span the majority of the troubled production of the film that would later become known as The Prince and the Showgirl. This film also chronicles Clark’s account of his own complex relationship with Monroe during this time.
The troubled dynamic between Olivier and Monroe is perfectly summed up by Colin (Eddie Redmayne) – Olivier was an actor who wanted to be a movie star and Monroe was a movie star who wanted to be taken seriously as an actress. Unfortunately for Ms. Monroe, her crippling insecurities and dependence on chemical substances sabotaged those plans.
To add to the problem, her behavior was enabled, by a series of sycophants; the film singles out Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker) in particular. At times, she seemed aware enough to reach out and pull people in who could help her such as recent husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). But alas, she was too needy and her desire for love made her unbearable and ultimately drove people away.
This is what Williams’ performance was able to capture; she hit all the right notes. In saying this, I am in no way attempting to diminish the work of the supporting cast that includes appearances by Dominic Cooper, Emma Watson, Toby Jones and Judi Dench; they all basically do an admirable job. But this is clearly Williams’ film.
And now for the bad news: as a narrative, the film feels a bit all over the shop. Although I have not read the memoirs/diaries on which the film is based, it felt like, at times, that the film ‘read’ too much like a diary would read, with all the loose-ends and random incidents that take away focus from the central plot.
Overall, I would say I enjoyed the film, based on the strength of Williams’ performance. But I do feel like the film could have benefited from a much tighter narrative.
Production Photos Credit: The Weinstein Company