Oh, Marilyn. You poor, beautiful soul.
You, reader, may or may not have seen this film, but I feel like you’d have heard of it. This is one of those British pictures where even the smallest of parts may be played by a recognizable English actor. It’s a marvelous motion picture, one of my favorites.
The film revolves around the true-to-life production of The Prince and the Showgirl, a romantic comedy starring Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. Monroe, played to gentle perfection by Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), is about as broken as we’ve been led to believe. And Olivier (Kenneth Branagh, Hamlet) is the director who must keep her together. Rounding out the trio is quiet, endearing Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything), on whose book the film is based.
Production on the film quickly turns to disaster when Monroe cannot remember lines or cannot deliver them, or when she runs away to her insufferable acting coach. But as time goes on, Colin’s innocence becomes a source of trust for the actress, and despite the executives’ wishes to keep them apart, Colin Clark becomes one of the only reasons the production doesn’t fall to pieces.
It is in their private moments that the film really works. And it’s tender, as I’ve come to expect from director Simon Curtis. Everything on set is a tense and tedious affair, but the moments shared between Clark and Marilyn are nothing short of magical. Ben Smithard’s cinematography is strikingly pleasant, as well, which only makes it better.
The problem I’ve always had with this film was the continuity. Especially in this viewing, I noticed several agonizing jump-cuts in action or expression, and there’s a sequence with Branagh where the darkness of his eyebrows is wildly inconsistent. They are small quibbles, but the type that stain your impression of the movie with time.
At one point, one of the characters remarks that Marilyn doesn’t always hit her marks, but when she gets it, you can’t take your eyes off her. I feel the same way about this film. Most of it is good—always competently made—but when it truly works, it’s quite near perfect.
My Week with Marilyn is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.