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My Week with Marilyn
My Week With Marilyn is based upon the diaries of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) and his experience in getting to know actress Marilyn Monroe over the short course of a week in which she opened up to him emotionally and became close. The script is told through his perspective as the story is based upon his own memories of the time he spent in Marilyn Monroe's company. Marilyn Monroe is portrayed by actress-extraordinaire and Academy Awards nominee Michelle Williams.
The story takes place in 1956 as the production was going underway on The Prince and the Showgirl. The now-classic film starred Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), and arrived only a year prior to the release of one of the most important and well-regarded comedies ever made, Some Like It Hot, which catapulted it's star Marilyn Monroe to even greater heights of stardom.
Colin Clark was a 23 year old assistant to the director and while he had little experience in filmmaking he had plenty of ambition to carry him along on the set. Over the course of his experience in working on the production he began to notice pressure placed upon Marilyn Monroe as a celebrity and he saw himself as someone who could help protect her from an increasingly difficult array of challenges, including the temper and attitude of Sir Laurence Olivier, who seemed to be dissatisfied with Marilyn Monroe's performance.
It seems worth pointing out that any film covering a short span of time cannot possibly be considered detailed enough to consider as an entire bio-pic. My Week With Marilyn doesn't qualify as something that can be labeled as a bio-pic of Marilyn Monroe (even if it features several enlightening moments). My Week With Marilyn loses that opportunity the second it focuses on Colin Clark as the protagonist.
While there are many interesting insights made about Marilyn Monroe there is still a great deal left unexplored. One would hope that more films will be made about the famed and beloved actress but it is difficult to imagine another actress portraying her now that the incredibly talented Michelle Williams left such a great impression. Her performance was amongst the best in 2011 and her work will be difficult for any actress to even attempt performing as Monroe.
Simon Curtis surprises as a perfect fit as director of this project. Most of Curtis's directing duties are from television productions so it is curious to see him working as director here, but nothing about the style and performances suggest an under-qualified director. This is something that adds a great deal to the quality of the production.
The greatest thing anyone will notice about My Week With Marilyn is the wide array of fantastic performances. It's even difficult to imagine anyone walking away without the satisfaction felt of having seen great actors performing in terrific roles. No actor seems underutilized and that alone is an increasingly uncommon accomplishment. Each of the central characters is performed more than adequately. Eddie Redmayne makes a solid impression as a relative newcomer; and Emma Watson has a fantastic supporting role. Kenneth Branagh delivers one of his best performances in years. Judi Dench is always wonderful... an absolute delight. The entire cast excels.
Michelle Williams is the standout though as she delves into the role of Marilyn Monroe. She encapsulates the beauty of her while also presenting viewers with the quiet, dark, and sad side. Marilyn Monroe was not a person without problems and the film manages to carefully balance the charming innocence while showing us emotional anguish from her relationships, pressure from acting, and celebrity lifestyle. The movie never gives us a fully-orchestrated illustration of Marilyn Monroe but the parts it does present are beautifully drawn, intimate, and detailed and the main reason for this is the complexity of the performance by Williams.
My Week With Marilyn was a definite surprise for me. I wasn't expecting it to be one of the best films made in 2011 but it managed to be one of my favorites. Because there's a good chance you haven't seen it yet I suggest renting it or purchasing it immediately. It's worth checking out and certainly worthy of adding into the collection of any Marilyn Monroe fan, but most importantly it's a solid experience for fans of effective filmmaking, period. While The King's Speech made the rounds recently as an over-discussed but worthy production, it's now time for the under-recognized but uniformly excellent My Week With Marilyn to shine as a larger audience awaits discovery.
My Week With Marilyn has a stellar presentation that preserves the glorious cinematography by Ben Smithard. I consider the photography for this film an underrated achievement. With grace and style the cinematography managed to capture a feeling of classic cinema dating back to the works of Marilyn Monroe while also maintaining a sleek and glossy high-quality pizazz. The colors are lush and vivid as needed and quiet in tone when the scene calls for the material to be. The atmosphere is aided by these unique aspects. The video preserves the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and every second of the film looks as stellar as fans will be expecting from this marvelous production in 1080p High Definition.
The audio doesn't quite manage to be the perfect match for the stunning video presentation as the aural soundstage is relatively quiet and emphasizes those moments as much as any moments with dynamic sound design. The best thing about the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound presentation is the fact that it beautifully reproduces Alexander Desplat's "Marilyn's Theme" and Conrad Pope's original score. Dialogue is well reproduced and the landscape of the environmental sounds and lush score music makes it a worthy lossless audio presentation despite any comparisons to the even more impressive picture quality.
Subtitles are provided in Spanish and in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
There are two bonus features included on this release:
Commentary with Director Simon Curtis
The Untold Story of An American Icon (SD, 19:07) is a brief featurette featuring interviews with cast and production members. This extra is a standard Behind-the-Scenes feature and covers various aspects of the films production in quick-form (nothing is too detailed due to obvious time constraints).
My Week With Marilyn was one of my favorite surprises of 2011. It features an amazing performance by future Oscar winner Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and that is the reason to make enough time to experience this cinematic delight. The rest of the movie delights as well and doesn't disappoint. It is an intimate memoir of one of the most well-loved movie icons of all time and the experiences an outsider had learning about her in working with the legend over a short period of time. The story that is told is fascinating, beautiful, and ultimately complex... sort of like Marilyn Monroe. Highly Recommended.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.