My Week with Marilyn is essentially a 99 minute biopic that showcases the infamous actress and sex symbol’s tumultuous stint on the 1957 production of the feature film, The Prince and the Showgirl. Now most biopics will attempt to cover the subject’s entire life, or at the very least, the important parts. Obviously, the title alerts you that we are only going to get a sample-size of the celebrity that constantly turned heads…in more ways than you’d think.
The story is told through the eyes and experiences of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). Born into an uber-wealthy family, Colin has dreams of working in the movie-making industry and is determined to make it by any means. After literally camping out in a studio’s head office, director/producer and heralded British actor, Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) gives the eager lad a shot as a 3rd assistant to the director – which is him. Colin is basically a “go-for” and handles all the odd jobs on the production site. The guy is now beginning to live his dream.
Just as everyone else on the set is stoked to be living out their dreams while working on a major production, some of them are going to be thinking they walked into a nightmare upon the arrival of the star, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). As the pop-culture icon arrives by private plane, the national media and surrounding locals stalk the starlet day and night. On the set, Marilyn is over-coddled by her acting coach, Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamker), and this drives Sir Laurence bonkers. Although it is his production, the fragile and audacious Marilyn is seemingly calling the shots, giving the entire cast and crew constant headaches. The only one that can seem to get through to her is the quiet and eyes-wide-open Colin.
Seeing the Marilyn character outside of the media and/or films is naturally intriguing. Her bipolar-like personality is brought to life in a classy manner by Michelle Williams. Depending on how they categorize this role, she should be in talks for a Best Actress nod come award season. And sticking with the character, the way they lit all her scenes symbolized what many saw back then: She was always the brightest star in the room. Her presence is over-powering yet her confidence is severely lacking. Seeing her struggle and how the people around her react (Dominic Cooper shines in these moments) tell the story and solidify this very clever biopic. This snapshot of her life is what the lauded actress went through every day and the sequences chosen here were well-planned by the director and screenplay writers.
The smaller plot points, such as Colin fancying a humble wardrobe designer in Lucy (Emma Watson), are mainly used to show the affect Marilyn had when on the scene. One minute Colin is all about Lucy; that is until Marilyn gives him the time of day and things immediately get turned on their head. And that same reaction brings us back to the true show-stopper in this flick, Kenneth Branagh. He is easily the most entertaining character to watch and elevates every sequence. Watching his mood swings – many in mid-sentence – is not only hilarious but a privilege to take-in. His reflective character is used to articulate the current social landscape as well as the changing of the guard, in showing what affect someone with the cache of Marilyn had on a multitude of industries (film, journalism, etc.).
From a storytelling perspective, many of the main characters transition from protagonists to antagonists quite frequently, and effortlessly. Again, this is done to show the power of someone like Marilyn Monroe. So although it is a true account of what her life was like, this flick can double as a social commentary.
Overall, My Week with Marilyn oozes with intrigue and solid performances. Just as the world flaunted over the blonde with the red-devil lipstick, the audience will hang on everything they see in this satisfactory telling of an icon.
RATING: 4 out of 5