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Film Reviews

 

"My Week With Marilyn” by Linda Bergman

“She was a dream come true.  My only talent was to not close my eyes.”


    This is the last line of the film set in England and sums up the seven tumultuous days twenty-three-year-old Colin Clark spent with the world’s most magical star in the summer of 1956.  Legend has it that it took him forty years to publish his diaries chronicling the six-month shoot of  “The Prince And The Showgirl” co-starring and directed by Sir Lawrence Olivier. But oddly, the account of this one special week was missing. Many years later, Clarke wrote a second book entitled, “My Week With Marilyn” that offered an uncommon look as to how he won the golden ticket and fell into the position of being Marilyn’s intimate go-to, cohort and cuddler in the absence of her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller.


    Newly graduated from Oxford, Clarke, who calls himself  “the youngest of a family of over-achievers” tests his parent’s patience and goes to work as a lowly production assistant on the set of Olivier’s beleaguered film. As Olivier (played brilliantly by Kenneth Branagh) continuously asks, “What have I gotten myself into?” Marilyn comes to the set later and later and when she does show up, her insecurities dissolve any ability to remember lines or the motivation she needs to say them. Olivier, refusing to accommodate her tardiness or devotion to Method acting, sends Colin to peel his troubled star away from her coach and enabler, Paula Strasberg, and a fast friendship is formed. During her husband’s absence, a tense, erotically charged week sets the stage for Clarke to climb a ladder into Marilyn’s locked room, remove pills from her suicidal grasp, and hold the most famous woman in the world in his arms until daylight.  They play hooky, swim naked, run in the fields and tour the countryside where she reveals the achingly real and troubled woman underneath the glossy Hollywood image.


    This is director Simon Curtis’ (Cranford) first feature film and he feels “…very lucky…”, he says, “to have gotten the rights to such a wonderful piece.”  He teamed with producers David Parfitt and Harvey Weinstein (Wings of The Dove, Gangs of New York, Shakespeare In Love) and together, they approached screenwriter, Adrian Hodges, with whom Curtis had worked on a BBC production of David Copperfield.
    British actor Eddie Redmayne is perfect as the Opie-ish Colin Clark, and his natural naiveté makes audiences smile. Julia Ormond (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button) plays Vivien Leigh, Emma Watson (Harry Potter) plays the wardrobe mistress who falls for Colin, and Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench plays Dame Sybil Thorndike.


    I leave the casting of Michele Williams as Marilyn for last because it deserves to be set apart. As I have always hated impersonators or “tribute artists” as they are called these days, not wanting to have my memories of screen legends tainted by wannabes, I was skeptical that I would or COULD buy in to the fantasy.  Happily, I report that Williams so embodies the look and the spirit of Monroe, you are transported to Marilyn-ville in seconds. It doesn’t hurt that the opening images are a long shot of Michelle’s Marilyn singing “That Old Black Magic” and dancing in a back-lit diaphanous gown. Nor do you mind that Michelle William’s real singing voice is so beautiful it takes your breath away. The wondrous appeal of Monroe is only enhanced by the riveting appeal of the actress portraying her.  Williams is neither afraid to show hers or Marilyn’s vulnerability as all of Marilyn’s dreams seemingly go wrong at the same time. Director Curtis says about her, “She is a phenomenal actress in that her performances are all marked with stunning psychological complexities.”


    Ironically, the combination of Olivier and Monroe in “The Prince And The Showgirl” that was touted as the vehicle to rejuvenate Olivier into a movie star and transform Monroe into a real actress, turned out to be a dud. They each went on to make separate history with Marilyn starring in Some Like It Hot and Olivier receiving his fifth Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for The Entertainer.

 

The movie will be in full release on November 25th.