The Hollywood Diaries

Although the casting of Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn” initially drew criticism from fans of the starlet of all starlets, Williams’ portrayal of the larger-than-life movie star is eerily spot-on: bleached golden curls, wide camera-ready smile, flirty naiveté. However, the latest film from director Simon Curtis is not so much a biopic about the actress as it is a brief glimpse of one man’s fleeting relationship with her.

Wide-eyed 23-year-old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), eager to get a foot in the film business, lands a job as third assistant director on the set of “The Prince and the Showgirl” — a 1957 film starring Monroe and Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh).

Based on Clark’s autobiographical books, “My Week With Marilyn” acts as a backstage account of the 1957 film, as well as a heartfelt coming-of-age story for Clark, as he develops a close friendship with Monroe.

Initially, Monroe is depicted as unreliable and diva-like — she shows up late to the film’s table read, must always be accompanied by her method acting coach and frequently stumbles her lines. “The Prince and the Showgirl” director and star Olivier quickly grows annoyed with her behavior, and her use of method acting conflicts with his brand of old school stage acting.
Branagh (“Rabbit-Proof Fence,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”), always a compelling screen presence, provides much of the film’s light comedic relief. Owning the role of the high-strung director, he hilariously rejectis his own cigarettes in favor of something stronger in one memorable scene.

As the film icon, Williams is glowing and goddess-like in nearly every shot. Her motions are often slowed, as if she is constantly posing for the eager public. Tight shots of Williams’ eyes and ruby-red smile feed the construction of the actress, as the camera work dually pins Monroe as both familiar and impossibly enigmatic — an intriguing document of her household celebrity.

In his first major role, Redmayne as Clark is believable as the bashful kid who easily falls under Monroe’s charm. However, the romantic pairing of boyish Clark and glamorous Monroe is never truly convincing, as Monroe treats Clark more like a pet than a romantic interest.  

But the film makes up for its unchallenging plot with a cast of high-caliber actors. Curtis — of primarily British television and theater background — achieves standout performances from the supporting cast that includes Judi Dench, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper and Emma Watson.

It is Williams, however, who shines brightest in her memorable turn as Monroe. Williams — last seen in her Oscar-nominated role in 2010’s “Blue Valentine” — has grown with each film. Her commitment to the role is evident: Williams claimed she ate, drank and slept Marilyn in order to transform into the pop culture icon — and she nails the facial expressions, seductive movements and singing to a T. It’s easy to forget Williams herself isn’t an international superstar, and after such a gripping performance, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before she is.