Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Week with Marilyn - Movie Review

Here's a good example of a movie that I wasn't all that interesting in seeing initially, but ended up really liking.  I have to admit that I've never actually seen a Marilyn Monroe movie.  Not because of any dislike for her, but more just because she was gone before my time.  We've all seen those iconic scenes and images of her and her influence cannot be denied.

I think one of my issues with not wanting to see this is because while I like Michelle Williams, when I heard she was going to be playing Marilyn I just didn't think it would work.  She's a cute girl, but she's just kind of plain and not the Marilyn type.  My concern about this vanished during the opening scene.  I was hooked!  I think that was Marilyn Monroe's power and Michelle Williams managed to channel that power.

My Week with Marilyn follows the true story based on a book written by Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a writer and filmmaker that worked on the set of a film that eventually became The Prince and the Showgirl.  Colin is fresh out of college and his first job is as a assistant on the movie.  He had connections to actor and director Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), who was able to get him the job.  It wasn't quite clear what their prior relationship was, but he seemed to be close with Olivier's wife like they were family friends or something.

Marilyn arrives on set and is frustrating for Olivier to work with due to her consistently being late and her use of method acting, which Olivier isn't a fan of.  Plus, the movie shows a bit of Marilyn's drug and alcohol use, which just compounded those things further.  Marilyn is insecure about her acting and thinks the crew doesn't like her, so she feels isolated.  She eventually forms a friendship with Colin, once she feels that he is the only person on set that's honest with her.

This is another movie that I think is a little bit of a tribute to older movies and how they were made.  The movie is divided between their work on the movie, Marilyn's behavior, and her relationship with Colin.  My Week with Marilyn wraps up pretty much just as filming of the movie wraps up.  It doesn't really delve much into Marilyn's history or what happens to her after.  That I didn't mind though.  There are plenty of other movies and documentaries that are about those things.

You're basically watching this movie for Michelle Williams performance as Marilyn.  While there are other actresses that might have looked the part more, it felt like she just got the essence of Marilyn and you really feel like you know her by the end.  I heard someone say after the movie, "I think she just did Marilyn better than Marilyn."  It's that kind of career defining performance.  Williams makes her likable and sympathetic and it made her life feel all that more tragic to me.

The one kind of bad thing was that it appeared they used varying prosthetics to give the waifish Williams more of Marilyn's trademark bombshell look.  Apparently she gained some weight for the role, but you can still tell there were some things that just didn't look natural.  It kind of took me out of the movie at times, because I would focus on that instead of what was going on.  There was also a body double (reportedly Emma Glover...just Googled her.  DAMN!!) used for the nude scenes.  There's no frontal nudity in the movie, if that's what you're wondering.

This doesn't take anything away from Williams' performance though and my overall enjoyment of the film.  I've said this a few times recently, but I really think this is the best female performance of the year and would not be surprised at all to see her winning the Oscar for this.  Even though I saw this in 2012, this is technically at 2011 film, so I'm going to have to include it in my 2011 lists.  I think Rooney Mara and Williams might have fight ahead of them.  That's I'd pay to see, as well.

Williams isn't the only great performance though.  Kenneth Branagh is great as Sir Lawrence Olivier.  Hell, everyone, notably Dominic Cooper and Dame Judi Dench, is great.  It's one of those movies where the performances are so good across the board, that it almost makes you forget that there's really not all that much to the story.  The story is a little thin, as it's focuses on such a short period of time, but I didn't mind that.

Almost forgotten in this is Emma Watson's first role after Harry Potter.  She plays Lucy, a wardrobe assistant that Colin initially dates, but once he starts to hang out with Marilyn, he quickly blows her off.  Poor Hermione.  You can't blame him though.  When the hottest, most famous woman in the world wants to hang out with YOU, then you might forget about other things for a bit.

This movie actually features several Harry Potter alumni with Branagh (Professor Lockhart from Chamber of Secrets), Toby Jones (the voice of Dobby, and I just saw him in TTSS) and Geraldine Somerville (Lily Potter).

As mentioned before, the movie they were making during My Week with Marilyn was The Prince and the Showgirl.  I wish I could have watched it before writing this review just so I'd have a little more comparison.  I just added it to the top of my Netflix queue though.  I might have to go back and watch some of Marilyn's more notable films.  It's a good thing when a movie can make you interested in a person to the point where you go back and read more about them or want to go back and watch older movies they've been in.

In the end, this movie charmed the pants off me, much like the real Marilyn would have.  I loved almost everything about it.  Whether or not you're a Marilyn Monroe fan, there's a lot to like and enjoy about My Week With Marilyn.  It has a knockout performance by Michelle Williams and it's a nice little drama.  I recommend checking it out.

4 (out of 5) Death Stars

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