Sir Laurence Olivier is making a movie in London. Young Colin Clark, an eager film student, wants to be involved and he navigates himself a job on the set. When film star Marilyn Monroe arrives for the start of shooting, all of London is excited to see the blonde bombshell, while Olivier is struggling to meet her many demands and acting ineptness, and Colin is intrigued by her. Colin's intrigue is met when Marilyn invites him into her inner world where she struggles with her fame, her beauty and her desire to be a great actress. Written by
When Colin first drives onto the Pinewood lot, we see an actor coming out of a soundstage and acting silly. He's very likely intended to be Norman Wisdom, who was indeed shooting films at Pinewood during that time. See more »
On the label of one of the medicine bottles next to Marilyn's bed, the branded barbiturate Tuinal is misspelled as "Tunial". See more »
In 1956, at the height of her career, Marilyn Monroe went to England to make a film with Sir Laurence Olivier. While there she met a young man named Colin Clark, who wrote a diary about the making of the film. This is their true story.
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Marilyn Monroe, the quintessential blonde bombshell, came to Pinewood Studios in 1956 to shoot 'The Prince and the Showgirl', a light comedy directed by and starring Laurence Olivier. Colin Clark, the third assistant director on the film, was the lucky 23-year-old who got to spend a week with her. 'My Week with Marilyn' cinematises his diary.
I imagine there aren't many characters more difficult to play than Monroe. It must be like playing Elvis. But I'm delighted to confirm that Michelle Williams makes the impossible look easy. She has thrown herself into this part and has nailed the portrayal. Aside from the physical resemblance, Williams walks, talks and acts like Monroe. It's too early to say whether she'll win the Oscar next year, but a nomination seems a certainty.
Williams' performance is bolstered by impeccable turns by an enviable roster of the creamiest cream of British talent: Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Zoë Wanamaker, Eddie Redmayne and Emma Watson. Especial mention must go to Branagh whose Olivier is impeccable. He accurately displays the legendary actor's sophistication and scurrility, and is bound to receive a supporting Oscar nod.
I loved the film's playfulness, for instance when Clark takes Monroe on a tour of Eton, followed by skinny-dipping in a cold river. The filmmakers do well to capture the craziness of Marilyn's world and the feeling of what it was like to be the most famous woman in the world. There are some lovely little touches like the scene where Clark asks Monroe why she has a picture of Abe Lincoln by her bedside. Her reply, 'I don't know who my real father was, so why not him?'.
Eddie Redmayne, who has appeared in some big films ('The Good Shepherd', 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age') is well-cast as Colin Clark. Perhaps it's because he looks so much the underdog. He sort of represents every young man who would have killed to be in his shoes.
Clark has his eyes set on Monroe but resigns himself to the fact that Emma Watson's character, a costume assistant, is more his match. A weakness in the story, although I'm unclear of the veracity, is how underused Watson is and how readily she forgives his liaison with Monroe. Didn't girls have higher standards in those days?
Simon Curtis is yet another Englishman who has moved seamlessly from TV to cinema. His film astutely plays down the fact that Colin was brother to the even more famous Alan Clark, a former Conservative MP. Rightly so, I think. This film isn't about the minister or his also-famous diaries.
I'm glad the filmmakers didn't sacrifice the film's integrity by moulding it to be rated 12A (British certificate) to increase ticket sales. The two or three flashes of flesh are not only welcome, they are vital (Monroe said that 'the body is meant to be seen'). Curtis teases us like Marilyn was famous for doing. But he knows not to go too far by showing us any more than is necessary.
In summary, this is a brilliant biopic, as well as a story of what happened when a young man got close to the star he adored. It is bittersweet and evocative of a golden age of Hollywood. I was made to care for Monroe. I felt bad for her when she was exploited. Along with Elton John's beautiful song, this film has made me understand Norma Jeane Mortenson a little better. Now I see her as more than a sex symbol. She may have been blonde but she wasn't dumb. Dumb blondes don't read James Joyce or marry Arthur Miller, or come out with some of the wittiest lines a person can utter. She was like all of us, really: a human being.
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