My Week With Marilyn is as alluring as the Hollywood icon herself
Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, and Kenneth Branagh. Rated PG. Opens Friday, November 25, at the Ridge Theatre
Based on memoirs by the real-life Colin Clark, the youngest son of famed culture monger and historian Kenneth Clark, My Week With Marilyn has the aura of memories sweetened by time and opportunity. Made by director Simon Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges, both Brit-TV veterans, the film is a bit stiff around the edges, but it is a lovingly crafted re-creation of pre-Beatles Britain and a surprising star vehicle for Michelle Williams, who usually plays woebegone indie types. Although she never quite captures Marilyn Monroe's particular allure—who could?—the vulnerability is profoundly visible as the Hollywood icon faces 1956 England and its acting royalty.
Judi Dench is delightful as old pro Dame Sybil Thorndike, and Kenneth Branagh has almost too much fun sending up Laurence Olivier, his idol and the figure most associated with the title roles in the film versions of Hamlet and Henry V. This Sir Larry, directing and starring in a lame costume musical, is a hammy wit who plans to bed MM and pick up some Tinseltown magic, as suspected by wife Vivien Leigh (played far too reasonably by Julia Ormond), but he's ill prepared for the sultry Yank's wildly unprofessional behaviour. Eventually called The Prince and the Showgirl, the project would be a disaster for everyone except wet-eared Clark, here played by The Good Shepherd's likable Eddie Redmayne.
Addicted to pills, public adulation, and private self-torment, Marilyn is drawn to his wide-eyed innocence. She manages to shake off new husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott sports an iffy New Yawk accent), two publicists (we get too much of Dominic Cooper and not enough of Toby Jones), and her parasitic coach/surrogate mother, Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker), to make seductive, if ultimately rather chaste, time for the third assistant director. “There's a lot of older guys in Hollywood,” Marilyn coos after smooching the kid. Her tone suggests an epiphany that makes her feel wise and helpless at the same time.
Watch the trailer for My Week With Marilyn.