Let this review be fervently dedicated to the performance of Michelle Williams because there is not much else to be revered in this picture. Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe is as close to the real thing as a viewer can come besides watching old clips from Some Like it Hot. Williams’ performance goes beyond the conventional sexiness of Monroe to convey both her lighter and more tortured sides. We get this perspective through the eyes of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) an ambitious young film enthusiast working on his very first movie set. Through family connections this picture happens to be The Prince and The Showgirl, a British film starring Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). The film gets off to a slow start and soon Mrs. Monroe’s new husband, illustrious playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), fed up with the mercurial nature of Monroe, leaves to visit his children in America, allowing for Colin and Marilyn to embark on a weekend-long romance.
Colin is young, naïve, and motivated, and despite numerous warnings from fellow stage hands to “not shit on your own doorstep” he quickly falls for Marilyn’s seductive allure. Director Simon Curtis follows Colin as he becomes more and more enamored by Monroe as the days go on. Monroe is clearly intrigued by Colin, as a mouse is by a ball of string, however, their innocent flirtation never ventures beyond the realm of anything more than cute. Monroe’s interest is clearly fleeting and Colin’s days are limited, but Williams plays Monroe so well that it doesn’t seem to matter; any minute is special with her. It is easy when playing Monroe to turn her into a caricature and mock the grace and ease she used to entice a generation. On the other side of the spectrum, one can look like her but never come close to capturing her vivaciousness. Fortunately for the audience Williams does neither and delivers a performance so shockingly parallel to the real Monroe that the replication reminds me of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar winning portrayal of Truman Capote.
But what should be applauded her is Monroe herself as much as Williams’ performance. My Week with Marilyn, although at times it falls flat, goes through great pains to display the immense pressure and watchful eye Monroe lived under. Whether it be the media, her director, or even her own husband, it was rare for Monroe to be able to break free for even a minute. What we have here is a week of an unadulterated Monroe in all her youthful glory. The pressure is one that is difficult to imagine anyone living through, and Monroe’s ease and grace makes her that much more amazing.
However, the performances of Williams and, to an extent, Branagh, are about the only good parts of this film. My stomach undulated as I was forced to choke down Colin’s naivety and watch as he travels through the most formulaic of plots. Curtis manages to enlist an impressive ensemble cast including Judi Dench and post-Harry Potter Emma Watson. However, Curtis seems to add them as an afterthought and their characters never really see the light of day. My Week with Marilyn is nostalgic though, and watching young Colin and Marilyn holding hands and strolling alongside the river, playing practical jokes on members of the crew and making prank calls is an enduring picture of romance. This picture, however, grows sickly sweet as the movie progresses and when Colin is eventually left by Monroe, wondering what went wrong, the audience is thankful this week is over.