My Week With Marilyn (15)

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, and Kenneth Branagh

The last time I found myself in this position was after The King’s Speech. I have just had the pleasure of watching My Weekend with Marilyn at The Showroom and I find myself with an insatiable urge to start clapping.  I don’t obviously; I’m not sure my fellow patrons, who have also stayed right to the end of the credits, would be entirely impressed.  I imagine being reported to the authorities and having my portrait, admittedly possibly hung and mounted, on a persona non grata list at the Box Office. No, I’m not American, and I felt no urge to whoop when Will Smith punched that alien, but this film left me feeling like I’d just witnessed a great play in The West End.

Colin (Redmayne) is a young man who comes from wealth, with a burning passion to work in the movies, and make his own mark. He manages to swing a production job on Laurence Oliver’s (Branagh) upcoming film, The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Marilyn Monroe (Williams), which leads him becoming a lot more involved than he bargained for.

The film may be narrated and told from the point of view of Colin, but it’s clear who the real star of the film is. It took about ten minutes for Michelle Williams to stop portraying Marilyn and Marilyn to actually take the screen.  That’s how good she is.  Curtis uses lots of tricks to merge the cast filming The Prince and The Showgirl with footage of the completed scenes and the real story. Williams show Monroe from all angles; the screen goddess, the little girl who just wants to be loved, the struggling actress with no confidence in her ability, and a woman wrestling with her own demons. She is simply the best actor/ess working in film today.

In the same vein, Branagh puts in a brilliant performance as Olivier, whose shadow he has followed in many ways throughout his career. Redmayne puts in an impressive performance as a boy maturing into manhood, striking out on his own and experiencing first love.  He mixes youthful naivety with a growing confidence, and dizzy infatuation. The supporting cast is superb with Judy Dench, Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, Philip Jackson and Zoë Wanamaker all put in strong performances.

The story pits Olivier, as a seasoned stage actor wanting to make his mark on the big screen, against Monroe, a screen legend trying to become a great actress.  What makes this film work so well is the grounding the director and many of the cast has in theatre.  This gives the whole affair a feeling of authenticity and a subtle grandeur.

Olivier bemoans “teaching Marilyn to act is like trying to teach Urdu to a badger”.  Quite.