Tuesday, November 8, 2011
NYFF Review #7: MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
A total crowd-pleaser (with integrity), Simon Curtis' MY WEEK WITH MARILYN starts off in a slightly ponderous manner with Eddie Redmayne's wide-eyed, well-backed Colin Clark determined to wind his way into the British film industry. The film's smart economy allows this upper-class maven to land a job with Lawrence Olivier's production company at once, just at the right moment to allow him to meet his (and many other's) first big screen crush--a lady named Marilyn Monroe. She brings her resolutely American ways--learned at Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio--to the UK, and this puts them on an inevitable collision course with Olivier's more traditional acting mores. Kenneth Branaugh's bluster as Olivier keeps us entwined in the first 20 minutes, as we follow his preparations for the filming of what would turn out to be his final directorial effort, 1957's THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. But you can feel yourself waiting for the star of the show while watching MY WEEK WITH MARILYN. And the star does NOT disappoint.
The always remarkable Michelle Williams hooks us completely with her resolutely definitive version of Marilyn. She appears fleetingly in the first act, like a shy vision. But by the second act, she's found a friend and a flirtation in Redmayne's increasingly endearing Colin Clark (who wrote two memoirs about his unique relationship with the superstar). Williams is stunning in this bon-bon of a movie. I cannot dare to say what she has done, except to say that she shrinks the memory of any other actress who dared to portray Monroe on film. How do I know this?
Well, while at the New York Film Festival, I was lucky enough to view the movie while sitting next to a writer and actor who knew Marilyn well. He told me stories about being with her at the Actor's Studio, brushing up with her in a small-spaced clinch with her breasts pressing up against him. He admitted to having a crush on her much like Redmayne's Clark has in the film, and I could feel my now-elderly friend sighing with envy throughout the entire movie. He said he had met with Marilyn six times (including once at Elia Kazan's home), and that she remembered him and would wave to him anytime they were in the vicinity of each other. His ultimate review of MY WEEK WITH MARILYN is that Williams gets it all right--the insecurity, yes, but moreover the instantly recognizable sweetness of this little hurt bird that reveled in warbling and preening for the joy of every man. Though her difficulties on-set are portrayed, this is not a movie about her downfall; it's about her last chance at innocence (there's an insanely fine "date" scene with Monroe and Clark that erases all thoughts that, at the time, she was married to Arthur Miller).
MY WEEK WITH MARILYN is lithe and fast-paced. It's not a utterly fantastic movie--whenever Monroe is not on-screen, it feels like top-notch television fare--but it does contain a sparkling, supreme performance. It'll probably be a huge hit, which it deserves to be because of the captivating Williams. She is an actress who really seems she can do no wrong these days. Singing, primping, or depressed, Michelle Willliams portrays a perfect Marilyn Monroe.