Film Review – My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn Movie PosterMarilyn Monroe has been a mystery for me—mainly, what it was that made her leave such an impact on film. I have only seen two of her movies, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like it Hot, and in both she seems to be just simply a blond bimbo with little range, and based on what was said about her on set (that she had to have lines written on blackboards while filming) seemed to confirm that. I still do not get what her appeal was, but there is no denying that she captivated people and there were complexities and pain inside her. The new film My Week with Marilyn is not a biography of her, though. We are getting to see her closer than most, but there is still a distance to her.

We get close to Marilyn through the eyes of a young man, Colin (Eddie Redmaye). He starts as a man who dreams of working in film, and through tough work and tenaciousness gets a job with Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) company and gets to work on his new film The Prince and the Showgirl with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Colin is our narrator, but he is little more then a vehicle for us to view Marilyn at her best and worst. This is Marilyn’s story, but choosing to view her through the eyes of those around her instead of examining her full-on gives the movie a lot more breathing room. By seeing how she affects those closest in work and in private, we see why she brings out such strong emotions.

Colin represents those who were enamored with Marilyn Monroe without reason, and is the kind of ego boost that Marilyn needs. While he doesn’t add anything beyond being in her presence, he gets to see her when she is happy, as well as her fears about being alone and about not being taken seriously as an actor. There are also her handlers, who are always singing her praises and defending her to the rest of the set, while also trying to control her more destructive impulses. However, it is through Branagh’s Olivier that we get some of the best full pictures of her complexity. Olivier goes on for long tirades against her: the lateness, her need for her acting coach to be by her side at every moment, the several takes she needs on the simplest of lines. Then she gets it right and when he sees it on screen he is thrilled and praises her. He sees why she is a star, the way the camera captures her in ways he feels he will never reach as an actor. He admires her ability to survive in Hollywood, a town that has thrown its worst at her, and she is still there.

My Week with Marilyn 1

Williams completely embodies Monroe; she has the looks, the poise and the voice of her. The pain is present in all that she does; even when she is happy there is a sadness to her, as she knows the feeling will not last. Colin is infatuated with her early on, and when she takes an interest, he is smitten beyond logic. Everyone around him warns him, and even without knowing her history (and the movie title) you can tell it will not last. She has a presence to take people in when she needs it, making them feel that they are protecting her, that she needs them. For the time, it may be true, but in the end, she is about her own needs. This isn’t to make her sound cruel; it is more that she has pain that she doesn’t know how to fix and it causes her to reach out for anyone she thinks is with her, until she feels she needs something else. Though, even in this complexity of her, the blond bimbo label does seem to stick. She seems naïve about many events or people in world, but she does take her craft seriously. She wants to be good and embody her characters; even in this light comedy she needs to feel for the character.

That is what we get here—a chance to feel for Marilyn. We see her at her best and worse, but always as a full person, not just the blond bombshell or as the ditz who messes up her lines, but as the damaged and intriguing individual that she is. Williams capturing all that Monroe was in this short time period gives us insight and feelings about the actions Monroe takes, be they good or ill.

Final Grade: B+


Benjamin is a film connoisseur and Oscar watcher who lives in Minneapolis and, when not reviewing movies, works at the Hennepin County Library.

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