My Week With Marilyn is based upon Colin Clarke’s alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe, during the filming of Laurence Olivier’s, The Prince and the Showgirl, a film of questionable quality, but fortunately both Michelle Williams (Monroe) and Kenneth Branagh (Olivier) dazzle in this charming romantic jaunt.
Michelle Williams does a convincing job of portraying the troubled super-star, however, the performance feels very much like an extended impression, not unlike Michael Sheen’s performance in The Deal (as Tony Blair). This isn’t so much a criticism but an observation. Williams presents us with an anguished Monroe, who’s plagued by her dependency issues (including drink and drugs), but also the curvaceous and bubbly platinum-blond that everybody expects. If there is a criticism to be levelled at Monroe’s depiction, then it falls squarely at the screenwriter’s feet. The film painfully drops exposition clangers throughout, from hints about failed relationships to absent fathers.
As with Me and Orson Welles the film isn’t about Marilyn but a civilian who gets caught-up in the actress’ world, if only for a short time. The film’s protagonist is Colin Clarke, played by Eddie Redmayne and he does a sterling job of looking awe-struck and devilishly handsome throughout, although not much else. The film features a host of cameos ranging from Toby Jones, Dame Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper (shudder) and even Hermoine Granger. In a rather surprising turn of events, Emma Watson looked like she might actually show some promise, but it wasn’t long until she started delivering her lines, with her usual clumsy gusto.
However, the film’s real coup de grÃ¢ce is Kenneth Branagh as Olivier. The film is at its funniest (and dare I say best) when Branagh is on screen. Branagh, the actor who was once called the new Olivier, here playing Olivier, is excellent and without him the film would be far less enjoyable.
My Week With Marilyn isn’t a biopic of Marilyn Monroe’s life, but a brief window into it, which is fine. As a piece of light-hearted entertainment it’s very enjoyable, particularly the moments involving Branagh shouting. It is, however, slightly disappointing when the credits roll, because Michele Williams could have done so much more, if only she had had the opportunity. Surely it is time for an in depth character study of cinema’s most iconic actress?