Capturing a celebrity’s life on screen in a “bio-pic” is a dicey venture. Recently, “Grace of Monaco” premiered at the Cannes film festival. It is a film about 1950s movie star Grace Kelly, and it was not well-received by critics. On the other hand “My Week with Marilyn,” which came out in 2011, was far more satisfying and demonstrates that when a good movie maker selects in on one meaningful episode in a celebrity’s life and enlists a capable cast, good storytelling will result.
As the title suggests, “My Week with Marilyn” is based on one week in the life of the notorious bombshell Marilyn Monroe (played by Michelle Williams). Set in the 1950s, when she is already a star, it documents her anxieties around her role in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a film being directed by the also iconographic Lawrence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh). While working on the film, she meets Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne), an assistant director with whom she can communicate much more easily than Olivier or any of the other heavy-hitters on the set.
“My Week with Marilyn” has a strong script. It is historically accurate since it shows that the real Marilyn was quite different from the roles she played and, in fact, it shows that even the public Marilyn was a persona being crafted by a smart but insecure woman. Also, it gives a glimpse of her often-troubled love life, as we see her entice Clark while trying to grapple with her relationship with her then-husband, Arthur Miller (played by Dougray Scott).
The cast is outstanding. Michelle Williams is amazing as Marilyn Monroe. She does a great job recreating her voice, and the audience is able to sympathize with her in spite of her self-absorption and seeming indifference to the impact her behavior has on others. Her performance earned her a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Kenneth Branagh is equally good as Lawrence Olivier, who becomes increasingly agitated as the production proceeds. Branagh also earned an Academy Award nomination.
“My Week with Marilyn” is a great choice for fans of Michelle Williams, as well as anyone who is interested in Hollywood history.