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Movie review: My Week with Marilyn

Updated on November 23, 2011

Next year will see the fiftieth anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. In that time many an actors' star power would have faded away, and yet Monroe's iconic status is as strong as ever.

Her longevity in the public domain is hardly surprising. Not only did she simply sizzle on screen, her often tragic personal life meant that the media spotlight was constantly trained on her.

Throughout her terribly short career, she rarely shot her films outside of the USA. The opportunity to work with Laurence Olivier however, was simply an offer she couldn't refuse.

In the summer of 1956, the biggest film star in the world Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) arrived in England for the very first time, to shoot the film The Prince and the Showgirl.

Helping out on the production side of things was fresh-faced Oxford graduate Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). As he was obsessed with the silver screen, he had a dream of working in cinema. For most people the dream would stay just that, but coming from a well-to-do family who knew Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and his wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormand) personally, it didn't take that much to make his dream a reality. So Colin soon found himself the 3rd Assistant Director.

Monroe had already gained a reputation for being difficult to work with on set, which she fully lived up to even in the presence of Larry and co. Although Laurence was aware of this, he wasn't quite prepared for the force of nature that was Marilyn.

Despite his lowly role, Colin soon found that Laurence was making him in charge of both looking after and keeping an eye on the biggest star on the planet. Little did he realise the impact of their working relationship would have on both their lives.

The film is based on events that actually did happen to Colin Clark; he retold the scenario in his 1995 book The Prince, The Showgirl and Me, but didn't reveal the full extent of his relationship with Marilyn until 2000 with his book My Week with Marilyn. He died two years later. Considering the length of time between the event itself and writing about it, that's one hell of a story to keep to yourself.

Director Simon Curtis (Cranford) has recreated this glorious tale with great elegance and humour. During the fifties, the UK actually had a healthy film industry that it could be proud of, and his film captures this era with a splendid dose of nostalgia. In places it actually feels more like a homage to a golden era of British cinema, rather than that of the relationship between a young man and screen icon.

At first Williams' performance as Monroe appears to get lost in the background somewhat; with larger than life characters to compete with, her presence is a little washed out. But then slowly but surely, she manages to allow the fragility of her character and her beguiling nature come to the fore in a mesmerising glow. So much so that you can't imagine any other actress on the planet doing a better job. By the end of the film she most definitely steals the show, which is no mean feat considering the impressive cast.

Redmayne has been making steady progress with his career, without really exploding on anyone's radar. He most definitely makes an impression as the love-struck Clark; although it's not difficult to imagine it's that hard for anyone to fall in love with Monroe, Redmayne manages to convey a belief that this isn't simply a case of being star-struck, but the real thing.

And then there's Branagh. Out of all the characters he's played over the years, it's difficult to imagine him having as much fun playing one as he does playing Olivier. It has far more depth than just a mere impression, as you can almost see Sir Larry inhabiting his fellow luvvy on screen.

There are a number of other familiar faces from our TV screens that also make help it a joy to watch, but none more so than Dame Judi Dench; her role as Dame Sybil Thorndike may not be that substantial, but by God she makes an impact.

Not only is this a fascinating account of an extraordinary relationship, it's told in such way that just like those who met Marilyn, it's far too easy to fall in love with.

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    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Nice review. This movie does sound like it's worth seeing. I've been considering making the trip to see it, even though its not playing anywhere near where I live. I think I will. Thanks for helping me make up my mind.