In part, My Week With Marilyn is the coming of age story of Colin Clark, who would go on to become a documentary filmmaker and writer, but the magic of this film is the portrait it paints of Marilyn, the alluring goddess at the height of her success. Based on Clark's autobiographical bookThe Prince, the Showgirl, and Me, it portrays the alleged relationship between Colin Clark and Marilyn Monroe when he was only 23 and was working as an assistant of Sir Laurence Olivier's film The Prince and the Showgirl. Shot at locations such as Saltwood Castle and White Waltham Airfield, the beautiful setting of 50s England is recreated by cinematographer Ben Smithard.Simon Curtis is given the task of making a film with the presence and aura of Marilyn Monroe and he handles her conflicted and tortured-by-fame personality with the compassion and care she deserves.
We are shown her fragility, emotional strengths/weaknesses and desperate need to be loved by all through the eyes of young Colin Clark, played with naivety by Eddie Redmayne. He falls under Monroe's spell just like every other male did, and still does, but his blissful ignorance to the brutal truth of the film industry allows him to see her for what she is (was) - a magnificent woman just trying to live and love. Full of historical supporting roles lead by Kenneth Branagh's performance as Sir Laurence Olivier struggling to deal with the star power of Monroe that rivals his own experienced talents. Dominic Cooper has a strong performance as Milton H. Greene, a partner both professionally and romantically with Monroe. Judi Dench and Julia Ormond respectively play Dame Sybil Thorndike and Vivien Leigh, two of the greatest actresses to ever live. Also, Emma Watson makes her first appearance since the conclusion of the Harry Potter series as Colin's love affair who gets lost in the mix. All of these performances represent the chaos that constantly surrounded Monroe and makes it even easier to sympathize with her.
Even though it is Colin we see this story through, it is Marilyn Monroe who steals yet another show. She is played by Michelle Williams in the most magnificent performance of her already talented career. She is able to capture the essence of a persona that is far beyond anyone's understanding, yet coming out of this film I felt like I was given a taste of this woman that is the closest I will ever come to knowing who she was. That is as much as this film could ever hope to do. Her ditzy, childlike remarks constantly remind us of her painfully forced maturity and lost childhood. Williams is able to embody this role with a grace that comes from only the most incredible actresses. She brings Monroe's sensuality, as well as her brimming and addictive lovability to life right before our eyes.
Adrian Hodges' script is similar to Christopher Hampton's for A Dangerous Method (2011), in that they are great because they work so well with the characters they create. From Colin's innocent perception, to Sir Laurence's frustrated jealousy and envy, and finishing off at Mrs. Monroe's inability to understand why life has to be so empty and cold even to the beautiful. Little bits of dialogue perfectly capture the story:
Colin Clark: "It's agony because he's a great actor who wants to be a film star, and you are a film star who wants to be a great actress. This film won't help either of you."
Sir Laurence Olivier: "I think directing a movie is the best job ever created, but Marilyn has cured me of ever wanting to do it again."
Marilyn Monroe: "People always see Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they find out I'm not her, they run."
As voyeurs to this story we witness the tender moments between Marilyn and Colin along with the heartbreaking moments of a woman gradually failing to deal with her pressures. Simon Curtis had mostly dealt with television prior to My Week With Marilyn, and it is surprising how well he handles such a difficult and incredible story. So many films try to take a historical presence, but most fail to really portray them in a faithful and true way, Curtis does both superbly. The real reason this film works is because of the performances, they bring their characters to the screen splendidly. But all eyes are on Michelle Williams, her performance is the heart and soul of the film and through her the legend (yes, legend) of Marilyn Monroe is full of tragic exuberance.