Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Week With Marilyn (Rhoades)

“My Week with Marilyn”
Revisits a Movie Icon

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

I once interviewed Marilyn Monroe’s half-sister, a nice lady who worked at a college, her colleagues unaware of her famous connection. She told of her mother’s mental illness, the genes that her sister had inherited. It made Marilyn insecure, needy, subject to moodiness.
This is the MM we encounter in “My Weekend with Marilyn,” the new film playing at the Tropic Cinema. Based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, an assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier, it retells the turbulent relationship between the classically trained British actor and the American movie icon during the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl” in 1957.
Olivier was directing the film as well as starring in it. Yes, it was a predictable clash, the autocratic director versus the actress always late to the set and not knowing her lines.
During the filming Marilyn was honeymooning with her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller. But when Miller left her alone in London to complete the film, she turned to Olivier’s 23-year-old assistant for company. Visiting his old school, sharing a kiss, skinny-dipping, introducing her to British culture, Colin helped her escape the pressures of working with Olivier.
Blonde Michelle Williams (“Brokeback Mountain,” “Blue Valentine”) transforms herself into Marilyn Monroe, a testament to both her acting skills and physical beauty. She had to gain a little weigh to add curves, pad her hips but not her bosom. She worked with a choreographer to perfect Marilyn’s hip-swaying walk.
To prep for the role Michelle “read biographies, diaries, letters, poems, and notes, pored over photographs, listened to recordings, watched movies.”
“I’d go to bed every night with a stack of books next to me,” she recalls. “And I’d fall asleep to movies of her. It was like when you were a kid and you’d put a book under your pillow hoping you’d get it by osmosis.”
Kenneth Branagh (Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”) takes on the role of Olivier, one of his real-life idols.
Eddie Redmayne (“The Other Boleyn Girl”) co-stars as Marilyn’s erstwhile friend, Colin. He acts as narrator of the piece, a star-struck Brit, a nobody (3rd Assistant Director) whose only claim to fame is the week he spent befriending Marilyn Monroe.
Dougray Scott (“Ripley’s Game”) steps in as Marilyn’s husband, playwright Arthur Miller, while Dame Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Julia Ormond, and Derek Jacobi round out the cast.
First-time director Simon Curtis filmed the movie in the same studio where “The Prince and the Showgirl” was shot. Michelle Williams even used the same dressing room as Marilyn.
Despite the English trappings and Jill Taylor’s lush period costumes, don’t expect another “The King’s Speech.” That said, it did pick up three Golden Globe nominations – Best Comedy, Best Actor, and (not surprisingly) Best Actress. The script sticks to the story, but not much happens. A nice memoir, a closer look at Marilyn, a young man’s adventure of a lifetime. But well played.
Nonetheless, the script by Adrian Hodges (based on two diaries of Colin Clark) portrays Marilyn as “lazy, a bad actress, a boyfriend-stealer, an adulteress, and a man devouring monster.” Maybe she was all of that, but her underlying vulnerability seeps through, thanks to Michelle Williams’ insightful performance.
“I do remember one moment of being all suited up as Marilyn and walking from my dressing room onto the soundstage practicing my wiggle. There were three or four men gathered around a truck, and I remember seeing that they were watching me come and feeling that they were watching me go – and for the very first time I glimpsed some idea of the pleasure I could take in that kind of attention; not their pleasure but my pleasure. And I thought, Oh, maybe Marilyn felt that when she walked down the beach.”
[from Solares Hill]

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