Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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My Week with Marilyn

Film #322


Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier’s, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.

Year 1, Day 326

BEFORE: As they say, the show must go on. The good news is I still have plenty of time after my first day of work to watch My Week With Marilyn, the 2011 biography about Marilyn Monroe. Today I’m looking to learn as well as be entertained.

AFTER: As far as biographical films go, I don’t think I’ve seen any that have covered such a short span of time - one week, although I think it was actually slightly longer than the title suggests. Most are cradle to coffin stories, others shorter but still covering the majority of a person’s life. But My Week with Marilyn strives to cover just a brief moment in history and in doing so accomplishes something miraculous: insight. That’s not to say others don’t, Gandhi being a prime example, but My Week with Marilyn is able to take the time to examine a little, rather than interpret from a lot.

Starting off are some amazing performances, without which, the rest of the film wouldn’t have had such a big impact. The big three are film star Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), actor Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), and the lowly third assistant director Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). Each of the three bring something different to the table: Monroe with her power and commanding personality, Olivier with the talent and experience, and Clark with his young naïveté, otherwise known as optimism. These characters and their distinctive traits are effortlessly portrayed by their respective actors. I am not familiar enough with the real life people (Monroe, Olivier) to know whether or not Williams’ and Branagh’s portrayals were accurate, but I can say they were highly effective. It certainly felt as if these people did exists (duh, they actually did), but it came across in a way that wasn’t forced or felt fake.

But the standout part of My Week with Marilyn isn’t what you can see about the characters, it’s what you can see through the characters. Sure the story is about very specific people and very specific events that took place. But the issues they cover - hard work, love, loyalty, deceit, and more - can be universalized (no, not in a Kantian way). And since the film is so limited in the sense that they don’t have a lot of information to cover, they can take the time to fully flesh out the things they do cover. We see Monroe’s determination to succeed and act well in addition to being extremely high maintenance and reliant on others. With Clark, we see a boy who has a lot of potential (in many ways) but squanders that on false hopes, although the experience is a learning one. Then you also have the other characters like Olivier who provides that nagging voice, Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) who provides a nurturing one, and Lucy (Emma Watson) who serves as a reminder of what could have been. It’s very revelatory for both characters and viewers alike and it’s this aspect of the film that I most enjoy and what makes it special. You learn not just about historical happenings but you learn about life itself (no, not in the cosmic sense; think more personal).

My Week with Marilyn really takes the cake (or pie, it is easier to carry after all). But really, this film excels in many ways. It has great acting, it is a great biography, and can be very eye-opening and entertaining in many other ways. You don’t have to be familiar with Marilyn Monroe’s life to enjoy the film; you just have to watch it to learn everything you need to. And I do recommend you watch this film.

RATING: 5 out of 5