Movie review – Loving Marilyn Monroe

2012-02-17 09:20

Film: My Week with Marilyn (Ster-Kinekor)
Director: Simon Curtis
Featuring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, Zoë Wanamaker and Julia Ormond
Rating: 8/10

Michelle Williams is 31, the same age Marilyn Monroe was when she travelled to England to make The Prince and the Showgirl with Sir Laurence Olivier.

Monroe was at the height of her stardom – the quintessential movie star whom the camera made love to?– but seemed unable to find satisfaction off screen.

It was also a mere five years before she died of a drug overdose, or joined Elvis Presley for a little South American shopping, depending on your sources.

My Week with Marilyn, based on the personal diaries of Colin Clark – a wet-behind-the-ears wannabe filmmaker whose first job was as a gofer for Olivier on the set of the blighted The Prince and the Showgirl?– offers a glimpse of the complex woman behind the image.

Williams is mesmerising as the screen siren. She captures every gesture and every affectation, and manages to entice the viewer with unexpected glimpses – unguarded moments when she’s just one person trying to connect with another – of the real Marilyn.

Williams is my choice for the Oscar this year, not only because she has recreated Marilyn’s spark, but because watching her will make you sigh for the heyday of movies.
 
Eddie Redmayne, who stars as Clark, is spot on as the callow, starstruck youth who has an uncanny ability to see beyond the hype. He offers the homesick, lovesick Marilyn a sanctuary and along the way falls in love, an affair?– just like all fantasy relationships – that is doomed to failure. His diaries are surprisingly honest about his foibles and often more kind than is deserved about Marilyn’s.

Kenneth Branagh resurrects Olivier with his portrayal of the legendary actor. Olivier’s exasperation with Marilyn, as well as his eventual grudging admiration for her as he begins to understand her process and the alchemic effect she has on the screen, are there for all to see.
 
How she makes the camera and, by extension, the audiences fall in love with her every time she appears is a source of wonder to Olivier, a man who himself knows how to make people take notice, given his stage career.

Director Simon Curtis, who has previously made Cranford and David Copperfield for British TV, has crafted a personal film that explores the myth of celebrity in a time before it was labelled as such.

Marilyn has been dead for half a century, but her legend is still synonymous with the phrase “screen siren”, even though the troubled young woman behind the star is forgotten by posterity.

By the time you have watched the last frame of this film, you too will be in love with Marilyn Monroe in spite of yourself.

You will feel as though you know her well enough to stop by for a drink, as though she is looking just at you as she runs through her lines or trips over her dancing steps, as though she is sharing that joke just with you as she giggles and looks coyly into the camera.

When all of this happens, you will realise that Williams has done her job. She has made a whole new generation understand the inescapable allure of Marilyn, while disclosing the fragility of the woman behind the siren.

My Week with Marilyn is as much a memoir of a young man’s defining moment, of first love and lost love, as it is a chronicle of celebrity, and how being adored causes a disconnect between myth and reality.

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