MOVIE REVIEW: My Week with Marilyn
Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne and Kenneth Branagh
Realizing a movie star’s public persona stands at odds with their private life is akin to entertainment gospel, especially since the Internet has made privacy (or lack thereof) even more of a cultural issue. That Simon Curtis’s vapid biopic My Week with Marilyn treats such conventional wisdom as its one and only dramatic conceit merely hints at the film’s limited ambition and delusional treatment of romance and coming-of-age. Narrated by 23-yeard old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a determined young British lad who joins the film business (referred to as the “circus”) in 1957 in order to separate himself from wealthy familial ties, My Week with Marilyn centers on its protagonist’s fleeting emotional experience with titular bombshell while working on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier’s The Prince and the Showgirl. Throughout his time on set, Colin witnesses the increasingly volatile clash between Marilyn’s dueling experiences.
While the setup is intriguing, especially considering the iconic star’s tragic death only five years later, Curtis bungles the material from the start by playing it safe, shooting My Week with Marilyn as if it were a saccharine Lifetime movie. The problems begin with Colin, a terribly droll lead character who populates nearly every frame yet looks completely out of place in this world. Aside from his occasional knack for on-set problem solving, there’s nothing extraordinary or appealing about him, nothing to make the audience connect with his experience even on a gut level. It’s true that he was in the right place at the right time (the film is based on Clark’s memoir) and that his naiveté provided him a fresh perspective on the events that transpired. But that proximity doesn’t excuse the character’s complete lack of dynamism from a filmmaking perspective. As a lowly third assistant director under the domineering yet charming Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), Colin has unbelievably easy access to both stars and crew alike, watching closely as egos clash and feelings implode. But he doesn’t really perk up until Marilyn (Michelle Williams) glides off the airplane and into his world, a true blue movie star with the whole world at her fingertips. Colin’s growing infatuation with Marilyn is completely understandable, especially since the great Michelle William dives headfirst into the role, deftly managing to express the star’s bubbly and frisky public façade while immersing herself in the emotional haze behind closed doors. Still, as Colin becomes a bigger part of Marilyn’s daily routine, their time together never resonates on any kind of level, romantic or otherwise. If the simple lack of chemistry isn’t damning enough, Colin’s increasingly muted expressions become so annoying that one can’t help but wonder why Monroe is so taken with him. Ultimately, My Week with Marilyn mirrors Colin’s whimsical indoctrination into the adult world by shrouding nearly every exterior in hazy natural light, an obvious aesthetic cue if there ever was one. In turn, his simplistic progression from smitten schoolboy to a slightly wiser young man feels disingenuous and trite. We’ve seen these coming-of-age themes done before, and done better in far superior movies like Almost Famous. In the end, as with the often-tardy Monroe, the entire cast of My Week with Marilyn seems to be perpetually waiting for Williams to achieve that perfect method performance, a sloth-like process that grows more tiresome with each passing scene. This is Oscar bait incarnate.