Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Week with Marilyn (2011) – Review

Review: My Week with Marilyn is both a character study and short-form biography (like a time-in-the-life, specifically of Marilyn Monroe through the eyes of Colin Clark). The film is about Monroe’s experience in England making The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, as told by a young man on his first film set (and first job) as the film’s third assistant director. Director Simon Curtis creates a common structure to this type of film. While Colin is the lead in terms of who the camera stays with, it is Marilyn who is the star. The film is completely built around Michelle Williams’s performance. If she is not good, the film will be awful – but she is good and thus the film works. Curtis and Williams present Marilyn as not a very likable character, as she is seems completely fake and manipulative – even if what she shows you is the truth, nothing is trustworthy and so you are never sure. And yet, she is completely engaging and you cannot take your eyes off her. In this, Curtis and Williams have created the aura of Marilyn and is the reason the film completely captivates its audience despite being filled with unlikable lead characters (for the most part). The allure of Marilyn is why the audience can relate to Colin even though his actions (especially towards Lucy) are less than gentlemanly. But, he is also naïve to the world, and thus his wonder also excuses his behavior. Marilyn’s personal troubles are very much known due to her sad end, and the film does not explore new territory – rather the look into the psyche of screen legends Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier is almost more interesting (if Williams was not so compelling). Narrative speaking, the film is a bit muddled. It is a character study of Marilyn, but told through sort of a coming-of-age story. The character study works but is nothing new in terms of exploring Marilyn, and the coming-of-age story is undeveloped and the audience does not really care about Colin (again due to the complete viewer and scene gravitation towards Marilyn). This leaves My Week with Marilyn a good but not great film. It is built upon Williams’s performance, and that is really the reason to see it. As a side note, the film fan (and student) in me loved the filmmaking background of the film.

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Simon Curtis makes his feature debut with this film, having done lots of good work on TV. Slight narrative and story issues aside, Curtis has a great talent at garnering wonderful performances from his actors, making him someone to watch in British cinema (his style sort of reminds me of fellow British director Tom Hooper, who came out of TV to become an Oscar winning director with his third feature). Conrad Pope’s score is good and works well with the tone of the film, but the best piece of music is Marilyn’s Theme which is written by Alexandre Desplat (who could have the best score category to himself). Ben Smithard’s cinematography in the film can be exalted for his ability to light Michelle Williams so beautifully, again helping Curtis and Williams create the aura of Marilyn. Donal Woods’s production design captures the period look wonderfully. But, as stated above, this is a film built primarily on performances (not story). The performances are great (and thus the film is good). Julia Ormond, Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, and Emma Watson (showing that she can be good in something post-Harry Potter) are all good in small supporting roles. Eddie Redmayne continues to develop as one of the best young British actors. He does a good job with Colin presenting him as completely fresh in the world (which the story dictated as a necessity). Kenneth Branagh is fantastic as Laurence Olivier. He plays maybe the biggest stage star in England at the time with such a veiled vulnerability. However, and this is true of Williams as well, his performance also comes off as if he is playing a character (not wholly becoming the character), but again he is very good in the film. Williams is astonishing as Marilyn. While it does seem as if she is playing a caricature, she captures the essence of Marilyn perfectly and to an extent Marilyn was playing a role her whole profession public life (which is why Williams comes off that way).

Summary & score: My Week with Marilyn is going to work the best for those who enjoy very good performances, cinema history and period dramas. 7/10

1 comment:

  1. Even though the film itself is terribly flawed, Michelle Williams somehow saves this film with her near-perfect performance that captures not only the iconic charm of Monroe, but also the vulnerability of her real-life character, and makes it seem more than just an extended impersonation like something Will Smith did in Ali. Great review.