Michelle Williams deftly brings Marilyn to life

With the severe lack of new re­leases the week­end after Thanks­giv­ing — movie stu­di­os must think every­one is stuffed and no one goes to movies for a week — I de­cided to re­view a film that opened in lim­ited re­lease shortly be­fore Thanks­giv­ing, one that will cer­tainly be a sub­ject of con­ver­sa­tion as we inch closer to awards sea­son. 

If you haven’t already heard the name Michelle Wil­li­ams and Oscar in the same sen­tence, surely you will in the next few months. It’s her most high-pro­file role yet, play­ing the icon­ic Mar­ilyn Mon­roe in My Week With Mar­ilyn.

Wil­li­ams has come a long way from her Dawson’s Creek days, hav­ing had mem­or­able roles in small in­die movies like Blue Valentine, Wendy and Lucy and Broke­back Moun­tain. She’s already been nom­in­ated for an Oscar twice, but 2012 just might be the year she wins.

Phys­ic­ally, she doesn’t ex­actly look the part of the well-known blonde bomb­shell — I kept see­ing Michelle in­stead of Mar­ilyn, but it’s for­giv­able since the qual­ity of Wil­li­ams’ per­form­ance is above par.

The story be­hind My Week With Mar­ilyn isn’t the greatest, or even the most in­ter­est­ing, but the movie is most worth see­ing for Wil­li­ams’ por­tray­al of Mon­roe. Wil­li­ams man­ages to pull off tra­gic, tender, vul­ner­able, sexy, funny and flirty —all the char­ac­ter­ist­ics that made Mar­ilyn Mon­roe a Hol­ly­wood le­gend. Her voice and man­ner­isms seemed to be on-point, as well.

My Week With Mar­ilyn is the story of Mon­roe’s friendly flir­ta­tious, but ul­ti­mately pla­ton­ic, re­la­tion­ship with Colin Clark (Ed­die Red­mayne), who worked for Sir Laurence Olivi­er and was the third as­sist­ant dir­ect­or for the 1957 film The Prince and the Show­girl. Since it is based on Clark’s pub­lished di­ary ac­counts, the story is told from Colin’s point of view. Un­for­tu­nately, Red­mayne is mostly bland and for­get­table when paired Wil­li­ams.

The au­then­ti­city of Colin’s ex­per­i­ences has been ques­tioned by many, and I wondered how much of it was true and how much was ima­gined. Ms. Mon­roe was long gone by the 1990s when the di­ary ac­counts were pub­lished, and Colin him­self passed away in 2002. Any­how, I didn’t ne­ces­sar­ily take the movie as pure fact, but more as his­tor­ic­al en­ter­tain­ment. 

My Week With Mar­ilyn is not­able in that it’s not her life story, but only takes place over a short sev­en days. She’s mar­ried to Ar­thur Miller (Dougray Scott). She’s a total diva on the set in Lon­don (shows up late, in­sists on hav­ing her act­ing coach al­ways on hand). Oh, and she has a pill for just about every mal­ady known to man. Her re­la­tion­ship with The Prince and the Show­girl co-star Sir Laurence Olivi­er (Ken­neth Branagh) is tenu­ous, at best.

Dir­ect­or Si­mon Curtis (a Brit­ish TV dir­ect­or in his first film) takes great care in por­tray­ing a del­ic­ate Mon­roe who shuffles between fra­gile Norma Jean and sexy Mar­ilyn when the mo­ment calls for it.

Mon­roe died just six years after the re­lease of The Prince and the Show­girl, but as this movie shows, she will nev­er be for­got­ten. Wil­li­ams’ por­tray­al of Mon­roe won’t soon be for­got­ten either. ••

Movie Grade: B+

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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