My Week With Marilyn (2011)
Okay, I gave Michelle Williams a few weeks to slip into my subconscious. As has been mentioned on numerous occasions, the most difficult part of this film is replacing Norma Jean with Michelle. This trial is not as great for some as it is for others as if you are under sixty, what you have heard about Monroe will no doubt be more than what you have seen. You might have caught a couple of her pictures, maybe you haven't, but either way, the icon for most is the look, that dress and the hair. Lest we forget, replacing Marilyn is not really the trick here for Williams. Replacing Norma Jean was the real challenge.
And if you believe the hype, the awards nominations and the critical reviews, it would appear that this challenge has been well and truly met. Not having known the woman personally (not so much as born when she enjoyed her brightest moments) I would find it difficult to compare the two. And this is one of the things that I find difficult to understand in the reviews of others. Yes, of course, Williams has picked up Monroe's moves, the way she walked, her mannerisms and her style so completely, it is very easy to put Williams head on Monroe's frame.
However, the film concentrates on more than just copying an icon. Norma Jean is in this picture too, commonly portrayed elsewhere as desperate for acceptance, grasping for love and attention, tortured by an adoring public who never really knew who she truly was. This is much harder for Williams to pull off. So much so, that I would have to suggest she may even have failed to achieve it. This may not be all of her own doing, however, as there isn't so much as even a hazy line between her two distinct sides represented here. Even as she descends the stairs with Colin at one point she says; "shall I be her?" as if to suggest that she is two people. These two people, however, are never convincingly indistinct.
That is not to say that Williams' performance is not admirable and even enthralling at times. The responsibility placed on her shoulders must have been quite considerable, to recreate an American icon who became something that she must know she never will. Sounds like a losing outcome before you even start. So, brave yet, potentially, foolhardy.
The film concentrates on (as the title would suggest) the time Monroe spent in England shooting 'The Prince & The Showgirl' with Laurence Olivier in 1956. This was the last film Monroe completed before 'Some Like It Hot', so it's easy to appreciate her level of celebrity by this time.
The supporting cast here are all excellent, Eddie Redmayne takes the part of Colin Clarke, the third-assistant Director on his first ever job in the movies. He also writes voraciously on the events during this period which became the book 'The Prince, The Showgirl & Me' from which this adapted screenplay hails.
The film is never riveting at any stage and sometimes even becomes a little but dull. This is, to be fair, usually when Williams is not on the screen, so often does she light up the project with just her presence. It's a fair old stab of making one dewy-eyed writer's daydreams and half-forgotten encounters a little bit more real, but if we're honest, there is nothing here in the film that transcends it above admirable mimicry. The story itself is not enthralling or even that relevant. It seems only to serve Williams acting prowess and those of the cast around her, which as I have said, are all above par.
Williams performance notwithstanding, you do have to ask what the point of the film is? If it supposed to be an expose of an icon already diminished and idolised by people whose opinions that will not change for having seen it, then it is a waste. If it's just for Williams to show off how good her 'Marilyn' is, then it is a great success. If it isn't, then I'm not clear what it is, and that makes it a failure.