My week with Marilyn is a small gem of a film about the cast and crew dynamics during one intense week in the British summer of 1956. Based on the memoirs of documentary filmmaker, Colin Clark, it is set in the Pinewood Film studios and focuses on the relationship triangle between a legendary Shakespearean actor, a Hollywood star and a young production cadet, who is working for his love of film rather than a wage.
The film they are shooting is The Prince and the Showgirl starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn has brought along her method acting coach, but still has trouble tackling even one line of script without heavy coaching on the ‘motivations’ behind the role. Olivier is simultaneously exasperated and bewitched by her presence. Exasperation turns to jealousy as he witnesses Marilyn’s growing friendship with 23-year-old Colin.
Colin, played by Eddie Redmayne, is bemused. While he attempts, somewhat half-heartedly, to woo the wardrobe assistant, Lucy, his attention is continually distracted by the vulnerable, child-woman who is one of the most famous females on earth, but seems incapable of managing her life on a daily basis. Marilyn’s recent marriage to playwright Arthur Miller appears to be over before it has even begun, and her failure to arrive on time and deliver her lines in a professional manner is making producer/co-star Olivier increasingly sarcastic. Apart from Colin, her only support seems to be from Dame Sybil Thorndyke, a brilliant cameo performance by another Dame, Judie Dench.
The personality contrast between an egotistical, overbearing Sir Laurence Oliver (played beautifully by Kenneth Branagh) and the breathy, buxom, child-like Marilyn, portrayed by Michelle Williams, is both painful and exquisite. But while the performances by Branagh and Dench are spot on, My week with Marilyn would be nothing unless Williams could convincingly portray the confusion, vulnerability and neediness of the star, Marilyn. This she does in spades.
Do yourself a favour and buy or rent the video now.