Friday, May 11, 2012
Movie Review: My Life With Marilyn
Director: Simon Curtis
Reviewed: 11 May 2012
jamesintexas rating--** (4 Stars = Highest Rating)
The appeal of My Life With Marilyn is in Michelle Williams' bravura performance as the eponymous bombshell; she moves with confidence and style, opening and closing the film with a dance and song number. In full disclosure, my only film experience with Monroe is Wilder's Some Like It Hot, and beyond that, I know Marilyn from caricature, the television show Smash, and a little bit around the edges of 20th Century Literature (I think Joyce Carol Oates has a novel about MM). However compelling Marilyn Monroe is as a subject and a representation (like Princess Diana) of fame and its effect on a person's self-perception and insecurity as well as its voraciousness, I ultimately think this film is a disappointing trifle with very little that is interesting to say about one of the most interesting public figures of the past century. The word that kept popping into my mind as I watched the film on a United flight from Houston to Newark was television. My Week With Marilyn felt like a television movie, and I mean that as a pejorative.
Simon Curtis cuts this movie in a very quick, almost glib fashion, and the story in and of itself is not that compelling. Colin Clark, a young man (Eddie Redmayne) comes of age post-college and finds himself the Assistant to the Assistant Director on Sir Laurence Olivier's film set of The Prince and The Show Girl in 1957 at Pinewood Studios where Olivier is the respected thespian while Marilyn Monroe is the star. Much is made of the clash of the titans between Olivier (a hammy Kenneth Branagh) and Monroe, and her insecurity as an actress as juxtaposed against his arrogance and own more hidden insecurity. Most of this film is spent focusing on Branagh gnashing his teeth at Monroe's inability to show up at the set on time, as well as film veteran Dame Sybil (the great Judi Dench, underused) wandering on set to offer aphorisms. There exists some tension between Marilyn's adherence to The Method style of acting which offends Olivier who is seen as a master of rehearsal and memorization. Although there is a certain appeal to seeing how Olivier ran a set (I have very little background knowledge on Olivier, so again, I may not be the target audience for this film), the film grates and grinds to a halt with Redmayne's performance as the lovestruck Colin which consists of staring longingly at a flirty, disastrous Marilyn who ends up absconding with him for the titular week. Hermione Granger pops up in a thankless role as a potential lover who exists to stare longingly at Colin as he stares at Marilyn. There's quite a bit of staring in this film.
To return to Michelle Williams, she offers up a very strong performance, and her reading of lines like, "Shall I be her?" before launching into a cooing performance as the sex kitten Marilyn offers shades that are quite appealing; her Marilyn is a victim of her own unloved childhood, a string of marriages that left her unfulfilled, as well as a certain narcissistic compulsion to seek out men to transitorily captivate with her attentions. I'm not sure if she should have won the Oscar because I haven't yet seen The Iron Lady, but Michelle Williams is clearly one of the most exciting actresses of my generation, and I'm always drawn to her brave, fearless performances. This film, though, is not excellent despite her finest efforts.