In the genre of historical fiction, you will often see a plot device that uses an unknown protagonist: typically a fictional person. This character acts from the audience’s perspective, guiding us around the famous historical figures and driving the story. If you didn’t know My Week with Marilyn was based on a book written by a real person – Colin Clark – you might think this is the device being used. The story either comes across as historical fiction, or even worse, fan fiction.
Clark (Redmayne) loves movies and wants to work in them. As a young, naïve 20-something he ventures off to London to try and get involved with Laurence Olivier’s (Branagh) next film. Clark succeeds and gets to meet the incredibly famous Marilyn Monroe (Williams). As the production drags on due to Monroe, Clark and Monroe develop a relationship. This is where we get to see what the real Marilyn Monroe was like.
It is rather difficult to portray an actress whose image is still so ‘alive’. Williams captures the innocence, flirtation and insecurity of Monroe very well, delivering a complex performance.
However, Williams never seems to fully exude the sexuality of Monroe. That was the message of this film, that Monroe was different in real life than her worldwide image. Nevertheless, Williams lacks the natural sexuality that Monroe always projected.
Part of the problem lies with the fact that Williams is a relatively famous actress in her own right. It’s hard to forget that you’re watching Williams pretending to be Monroe. Though there are few actors in Hollywood who look as similar to Monroe as Williams does, it would have been better if the filmmakers had cast someone not so recognisable in the role.
The film has fine aesthetics and decent acting, but the story just isn’t that great. Clark actually wrote two books, which have wildly opposite descriptions of events. One wonders just how reliable an author he is. It is rather convenient for him that these books came out in 1995 and 2000, a time at which neither Monroe nor Olivier nor most of the production team were alive to contest the contents.
My Week With Marilyn
Dir: Simon Curtis;
US drama, 99 mins;
Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh
Premiered January 26