By Mike Smith
There are some things that can never be explained. In Hollywood, actors are a dime a dozen. But there are very few STARS. And one of the biggest of them all was Marilyn Monroe.
1956. In a film studio in England, two of the film world’s greatest attractions have contracted to star in a film together. Representing England, Sir Laurence Olivier (Branagh), still considered to this day one of the greatest actors EVER. From the United States, newly married to husband number three, Ms. Marilyn Monroe (Williams). And her entourage of publicity men, handlers and acting coach. Olivier wants to be a movie star. Monroe wants to be a great actress. And when the cameras began to roll on what would become “The Prince and the Showgirl,” young Colin Clark (Redmayne) was there to watch it all.
Full of outstanding performances, “My Week With Marilyn” gives viewers a small look inside the life and very fragile psyche’ of an actress who, with just a glance or a whisper, could turn strong men into jelly. But in spite of her worldwide fame, Monroe was a sad, damaged woman who used her beauty as a way to attract men that she hoped would protect her. Her third husband, the playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) stayed in the marriage for five years, but like husband number two, Joe Dimaggio, could not handle the constant spotlight his wife was under. A spotlight that reached across the pond to England and, really, the entire world. Williams is excellent as Monroe. Though she is made up some to resemble her, Williams eschews doing a strict impersonation, instead letting us see inside the real Marilyn. While visiting Buckingham Palace she is immediately surrounded by fans. “Shall I be her,” she asks her companion. In a split second gone is Norma Jean Mortensen, replaced by MARILYN MONROE. It’s a rare ability to completely switch gears that quickly and successfully but Williams pulls it off.
Equally good is Branagh who, thanks to his fame on the London stage, is his generations’ Olivier. The torch continues to be passed with Dame Judi Dench playing Dame Sybil Thorndike, an actress whose distinguished career on stage ran for more then six decades. Other famous names are brought to life, including Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond), Olivier’s wife and promotions genius Arthur P. Jacobs (Toby Jones), who would go on to produce the “Planet of the Apes” films. And it’s a pleasure to see Emma Watson in a film that doesn’t have “Harry Potter” in the title. As movie loving Colin, who is made 3rd Assistant Director (mostly because they “didn’t have one yet”) Redmayne is as wide eyed and innocent as a child being set loose in a candy story. He wants to be strong but, like countless men before and after, he allows himself to fall in love. The actors are led through their paces by veteran television director Curtis, making his feature film debut. Curtis has wisely studied many of the most iconic photos of Monroe and then incorporated those images in the film. As the film unfolds you suddenly find yourself remembering an image you’d seen from your past, realizing only after you’ve moved on that your memory is as crystal clear as a fine set of china. The pacing is leisurely, allowing you to get lost in the past, which the period detail truly allow you to do.