Anyone will tell you that the hardest part of the movie industry is getting your foot in the door. Things are no different for 23 year old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). He desperately wants to work in the film industry and eagerly waits around the offices of Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) production company, ready to take any job at all that comes along. Eventually, he ends up getting a job as the third assistant director on Olivier’s new film, The Prince and the Showgirl. The production of The Prince and the Showgirl was anything but smooth sailing, with Olivier and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) constantly at odds with each other. When Marilyn’s new husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) leaves England to visit his children in America, Marilyn becomes desperately lonely but begins to find a true friend in Colin. The two of them become very close, and although their friendship is brief, it leaves a lasting impression on Colin.
Although the movie was good, I don’t expect it to get a Best Picture Oscar nomination come award season. Maybe at the Golden Globes, but not at the Oscars. However, I do see it doing well in the acting categories. Michelle Williams totally nailed it as Marilyn. When I first heard about her being cast in this film, even though she isn’t a dead ringer for Marilyn, I was happy since I knew she would give a very thoughtful performance and I was not disappointed. She really did her homework and it paid off big time. Michelle has talked a great deal lately about how she got into character and I’ve been enjoying hearing what she had to say about that process. Not only did she read biographies and watch her films, but she also studied the things that Marilyn studied as well. She read the same books on body language and how to present yourself that Marilyn studied and used to shape her image. Michelle has also discussed how it was a challenge for her to find Marilyn’s natural voice. You can listen to plenty of recordings of Marilyn’s voice, but just because she spoke that way in films doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the same way she would speak to a friend while having lunch. And there aren’t any recordings of Marilyn just having a casual conversation with a friend, so Michelle had to imagine what that voice sounded like and I think she did a good job of figuring that out.
The rest of the cast is also very strong, particularly Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier and Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Between Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, it’s easy to forget that they’re not playing the main roles, Eddie Redmayne is. He was good, too, but is totally eclipsed by Branagh and Williams. The only casting choice I didn’t care for was Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh. Julia looked older than Vivien Leigh did at that time. When it comes to portraying real people in films, I think you can get away with not casting a dead ringer if they compensate by giving an amazing performance. But if it’s a small part, then you’re better off going for a lookalike since there isn’t much time to make up for it performance-wise. Since the part of Vivien Leigh isn’t terribly big, I think they could have tried a little harder with that casting.
The important thing to remember about My Week With Marilyn is that it is not a Marilyn Monroe biopic. If you go into this expecting that, you will be disappointed. However, if you saw 2008’s Me and Orson Welles and liked that, you’ll probably enjoy My Week With Marilyn as well.
Disclosure: I saw this at a free advance screening, the passes were given away by a local television station.