Directed by Simon Curtis
Starring: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne
How do you play a cultural icon? More importantly, how do you play a cultural icon without being torn apart in the press? Michelle Williams knows.
Few people achieve the level of fame and the title of icon the way Marilyn Monroe has. My Week With Marilyn tells a story about the actress that few of us have heard. It is based off the memoir of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) while he was working on The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956 with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Banagh). Over a week during production Clark claims that he and Monroe formed a friendship and he helped her maintain her sanity after her husband playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) returned to America. That’s pretty much the whole plot of the story. But there is so much more to this movie.
My Week With Marilyn is a biographical period piece, true. But the real meat of this film is the acting. More importantly it is the portrayals of historical icons. Kenneth Branagh is amazing as Sir Laurence Olivier, of course Kenneth Branagh is amazing in everything. And supporting roles from Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh and Dame Judi Dench as British stage legend Dame Sybil Thorndike are superb and are not to be missed. Emma Watson even gives a good performance that proves she can play more grown up roles. But the true story of this film is Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe. Playing a cultural icon and legendary sex symbol is not an easy undertaking and credit has to be given to Williams for having the guts to take this role, and she shines.
I have been a fan of Michelle Williams’ going back to Dawson’s Creek but playing Marilyn Monroe is a giant leap. Needless to say I was a bit skeptical going in. I had seen the promotional photos and all I was seeing was Michelle Williams dressed as Marilyn Monroe. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t see Marilyn. Even in the beginning of the film I kept seeing Williams. Sure she had the look and she was doing a facsimile of Marilyn’s voice and mannerisms but it just wasn’t Marilyn. Then it all changed. There is a point in this film where Michelle Williams disappears and Marilyn Monroe comes to life. From that point on Marilyn Monroe is alive again and I realized that Williams wasn’t playing Marilyn Monroe the iconic sex symbol, she was playing Marilyn Monroe the person. And for all her efforts Williams’ earned her Golden Globe win as well as her Oscar nomination.
It is hard not to fall in love while watching My Week With Marilyn and there is plenty to fall in love with. Of course falling for Marilyn is a given but Eddie Redmayne is excellent as Colin Clark and his journey from pampered rich kid to unpaid director’s assistant to Marilyn’s rock is both innocent and heartbreaking. We the viewer can see that this relationship will end badly but Colin is young and full of ideals. Even though he can see the real Marilyn he cannot see the cliff just ahead. In one of the most poignant scenes in this film Dame Sybil Thorndike tells him, “First love is such sweet despair, Colin.” No truer words have been uttered.
Widescreen presentation 2.35:1 in 1080p. Of course the picture is stunning to watch. The English countryside and Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe are things of beauty that high definition brings out in full. This is why blu-ray was invented.
Presented in Blu-Ray: 5.1 DTSHD-MA and DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1. I found at certain points in the film I could not understand what was being said. The sound mixing was very low on many scenes with Michelle Williams and I had to turn on the sub-titles so I knew what was going on. You would think that digital sound would afford better audio.
The Packaging and Special Features
The packaging and special features are very scarce here. The blu-ray clamshell case is to be expected but the bonus features are minimal. Of course there is an audio commentary with the director but the only other bonus feature is the featurette The Untold Story of an American Icon. And to tell the truth it’s a little light on the substance; it’s really only a glorified reel of the actors praising each other. I was very disappointed.
I don’t know what more I can say about this film? After I finished watching My Week With Marilyn I looked down at the blu-ray case and I no longer saw Michelle Williams on the cover, it was all Marilyn. I cannot think of higher praise to give.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Special Features 2/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10