Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Case for Liking It Hot

There is just something about Marilyn Monroe.

The beauty, the curves, the childish manner, the allure...  Even now, decades after her death, she is still an icon of Hollywood style and glamour.

Michelle Williams, trying to be Monroe (with extra padding to give her the voluptuous curves, and a body double for the odd "real" butt shot), therefore had big shoes to fill in the film My Week With Marilyn, and has gained widespread acclaim for how well she manages to do so.  Her Marilyn, especially in the public scenes, all smiles and poses and allure, is incredible to behold. 

It is harder for her to capture the innocence, if that is what it was, without making Marilyn seem a bit stupid.  Surrounding herself with yes men and moochers (Zoe Wanamaker has loads of fun as a pushy method acting coach). Marilyn is shown to be manipulated and insecure, which kind of works against what happens in the film.

Because, when she encounters a young British man, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) on his first job in the acting business, she latches on to him and finds an inner strength and charm and the need to break lose from her chains.  The fact those shackles are swiftly put back on seem to work against the whole "true story" aspect to the tale (perhaps "based on" or "embellished" would be more accurate?), but I wasn't there (and apparently, neither was anyone still living) so I couldn't really be sure.

And it's really Clark around which the film kind of starts to drag.  People know what to expect from Monroe, but Clark seems a bit underwritten, his blossoming romance with Emma Watson's character almost pointless in execution (though you know why it is introduced, I am sure).  He is young and bedazzled by Monroe, and that's about it.  Sure, he has a few small "adventures" on his own, but he is pretty empty of anything besides Monroe - unsurprising, but disappointing in the supposed "lead".

Also in the background, but having lots of fun, are Kenneth Branagh as the "acting professional" Sir Laurence Olivier and Judi Dench as Lady Sybil.  It's a shame that the Sybil's offer of a one-on-one read through with Monroe isn't shown, as putting Dench and Williams head to head would undoubtedly be a voyeuristic pleasure, but Clark's memoirs (as this is based on his recollections) do not quite stretch that far into fantasy.

Seeing My Week With Marilyn at the Embassy added to the old style feel of the film.  The comfy chairs also assisted me drift off every so often, as the pace of the film cannot be described as energetic, and the more self indulgent Monroe episodes can fray the nerves.  Thank heaven for Julia Ormond though, playing Vivien Leigh, who lights up the screen and cleanses the palate whenever she shows up - even if she doesn't show up that often.

Verdict: My Week With Marilyn is the chance to see another amazing performance by Michelle Williams.  But, while it occasionally amuses, the lead character is not terribly engaging (though he is definitely "packaged" as being likeable, I think) and so it all ends up feeling a bit empty, even if the thesping talent on display is very impressive.  6 coo coo kachoos out of 10.

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