Based on the memoir by Colin Clark
Written by Adrian Hodges
Directed by Simon Curtis
Based on the diary kept by Colin Clark, which was later published as the memoir My Week With Marilyn, this film covers a small portion of the life of arguably Hollywood’s most beloved star, Marilyn Monroe, as played by Michelle Williams. Although the length of the film only covers a very small portion of Marilyn’s life, this small snapshot provides an interesting insight into the star that was beloved the world over, but couldn’t find a way to love herself.
Young Colin Clark will do anything to get into the film business. Lucky for him, his wealthy father is willing to help, getting Colin into a party with the one and only Laurence Olivier, who promises young Colin a job on the production side of his next film. When Colin is turned away at Olivier’s office, he insists on waiting, and on his second day of waiting, Olivier finally turns up, brushing young Colin away. However, his wife, Vivian Leigh (Julia Ormond) pushed Laurence to do something for poor Colin, so he gives him the daunting task of 3rd Assistant Director, or in other words, Olivier’s personal gofer.
As production winds up, and Olivier plans for The Sleeping Prince, Colin is tasked with the minor tasks of finding lodging for the female star of the film, the one and only Marilyn Monroe. Throughout production, as Monroe struggles with her new husband Arthur Miller, her overbearing acting coach Paula Strassberg, and the unwanted advances of director/co-star Olivier.
The majority of the film is star worship for Monroe, but at the same time, it’s a no-holds-barred look at the private life of one of Hollywood’s most famous stars. With that said, Monroe is famous for her turbulent private life as much as she is for inventing sexiness on the silver screen, and becoming an idol of female beauty to men worldwide.
The dynamic of the friendship that blossoms between the unsuspecting Clark and Marilyn is an interesting one, while Clark is awestruck with her beauty and stardom, Marilyn is struck with his innocence and ability to be starstruck. As her relationship with Miller reaches a boiling point, Colin steps forward to be the kind shoulder for Marilyn to lean on, and against all probability, and the advice of her handlers, she does. When she becomes inconsolable, Colin is the only person that can calm her down.
Michelle Williams is a revelation as Marilyn, while we all knew she could act, this is a big step outside her comfort zone, and a big step into Marilyn Monroe. While the hair and make up make her look like Marilyn, the way she walks, talks, breathes, and moves is what allows her to become Marilyn on the screen. While the majority of the film is about the dysfunction that she constantly struggled with, the larger tone is how this girl was treated by society because of what she went through, and her actions are simply reactions to what life has dealt her.
Colin is the classic naive young man, easily led, but a hard worker. He has one of the more difficult jobs on the film, to keep Olivier happy on the production side while he struggles personally and to balance the egos on the set, while still serving them like a butler. Kenneth Branagh equally loses himself in the role of Olivier, who was such a big personality that it is hard to walk the line that Branagh walks in this film. I’ll be surprised if he and Williams are not both nominated for the Academy Awards, their work in this film was some of the best I’ve seen this year.
While the film has its flaws, and the pacing is a bit off for the whole film, overall it’s an interesting film about a beloved star that not enough people understand. They understand she was a tragic figure that led a tragic life, and there is a lot of that here, but at the same time, it’s a portrait of a young woman with an indefinable quality that everyone attempts to define at every moment. Luckily, we are left to wonder for ourselves a lot of what she was thinking, while gaining small insights into the way she lived her life. The perfect balance of truth and mystery, while not a perfect film, it has some very memorable sequences and serves as an interesting time capsule of the production of a feature film.