“First love is such sweet desperation.”
Boy likes girl, but wait; this love story isn’t one you’ll see in just any theatre. Here we have a bold young man confident in his rising place in the world, and along comes the girl. May I present for your entertainment ladies and gentlemen, Marilyn Monroe!
He hasn’t got a chance.
When I saw the glossy trailer for My Week with Marilyn I thought, how in the world were they ever going to make this work? The concept has potential in spades, but will it catch our fancy as another Weinstein studio offering, The King’s Speech? It’s Marilyn; it’s history. We already know how this story ends. She’s like the Mona Lisa; we’ve seen her so many times, and we’ve got it already. But then there is that clandestine smile – whatever way you spin it, she’s captivating. And gosh darned it if I can’t help wanting to know more. Those who made this movie happen must have felt the same because they’ve served up “insight into the very real side of Marilyn,” as said by the screenwriter. Yes, the movie’s, or shall I say Marilyn’s magnetism, vulnerability, and life are all there ready and waiting for your viewing pleasure.
In the opening number, Michelle Williams, who embodies the role of Marilyn to a tee, schmaltzes and croons across the cinema screen drawing us and Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) along for the ride. With his persistence in landing the job on his friend Laurence Olivier’s next movie set The Prince and the Showgirl, Colin is thrown into the midcentury everyman’s fairytale: being on set near Marilyn Monroe every single day. From infectiously exuberant, to pensive, back around again to ebullient and bright, the music pursues the narrative throughout. Not only are the characters and script masterfully played to the sounds of the 50’s and orchestral subtleties, but the English backdrops and settings support each scene’s individual nature. The pacing and editing are simply grand: clipped and light to make one smile, then lingering to make one pause. All is gloss and glitter, but it’s perhaps too good to be true.
Yes, on the movie set Colin falls in with Marilyn’s good graces, but is it a blessing or a curse –or both? Not only are Colin’s preconceived notions skewed, but everyone else’s are as well. Played to the fullest heights of extraordinary talent by Kenneth Branagh, Laurence Olivier’s disillusionment at Marilyn – and therefore his movie’s ultimate fate – causes him to recant the multiple former aspirations. “Who does this Marilyn think she is? I’m the director!” Laurence Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh, (Julia Ormond) watches from the wings and plays the prophet with aplomb, while Colin dives deeper and deeper into Marilyn’s world. This is the point of no return both for Colin and for My Week with Marilyn. It’s lacking in character relatability and relevance. The true Marilyn as portrayed in the movie and as she was in real life is not someone I want to emulate. The role of Colin is written and acted beautifully, but his leaps from real life to dreamland and back again are ever so slightly underdeveloped and thereby will not capture and keep the audience’s heart.
My Week with Marilyn is an achingly beautiful work of art, but when taken in as a whole it isn’t one for the ages. People aren’t talking about it, and any good producer knows that word of mouth is the best advertising they could ask for. The movie was released in a small number of theatres and has only grabbed bits and pieces of momentum since then. Its weekend premiere competitors were Twilight:Breaking Dawn and The Descendants (another drama). The movie’s R rating inevitably means fewer ticket sales than any children’s movie chosen from the many offerings this season. (Children’s movies stereotypically make tons more money than PG-13 or R rated movies) Now, did they make this movie hoping it would be a huge success and a society mover and shaker? No. This movie was made to tell a lovely and haunting story of a movie star who few understood.
“Do you have that painting of the woman with the funny smile?” Marilyn asks Colin’s uncle, a royal librarian and art keeper at Windsor Castle. He good-naturedly conveys that lamentably, no; the Mona Lisa slipped through Windsor Castle’s grasp.
Perhaps Marilyn has slipped through ours as well.