Like Elvis, there are at least a dozen actresses who have embodied the role of Marilyn Monroe, the quintessential blonde bombshell, over the years, although only half of these are worth mentioning. Based on Colin Clark’s intimate diary records, My Week with Marilyn finally gets the performance the Golden Age actress deserves, thanks to Michelle Williams, who went on to win a Golden Globe for her efforts. It could easily be compared to a BBC period piece. Like looking through a peephole the real Norma Jeane is revealed in short, but tender and intriguing glimpses.
In 1956 Monroe travelled to Pinewood Studios to shoot The Prince and the Showgirl, a comedy directed by the legendary Laurence Olivier. Colin Clark, who was appointed the third assistant director on the film, recounts his week on and off the shoot, spending a great deal with one the most celebrated actresses of the time. Through his innocent eyes we witness a side to the starlet we have never seen before; lonely, insecure and depressed. Her fight with her own personal demons causes a commotion on set, pushing away those closest to her, but making just enough room for the 23-year-old to step in. Before long he is completely smitten.
As a subplot we also observe Olivier’s frustration with Monroe’s acting abilities. On the one hand, she is remarkably charming and captures the hearts of everyone she meets. But on the other, she is a bit of a diva, constantly throwing fits and arriving late, in the midst of forgetting her lines and questioning the character.
[pullquote_right]Williams’ similarities to the real Monroe are uncanny.[/pullquote_right]
Williams’ similarities to the real Monroe are uncanny. She has done her homework – studying her mannerisms, dialect and charm. So much so, that it’s hard to believe that there isn’t some stock footage being used. Movies like these are all about performances and Williams delivers an unforgettable portrayal. The same can be said for Kenneth Branagh who delivers an Oscar worthy performance.
Sadly, the story plays out to predictable prickliness at times. Near the end, The Prince and the Showgirl completed, a much wiser Olivier explains to Clark, “Remember boy, when it comes to women, you’re never too old for humiliation.” While the younger Clark doesn’t understand, with time the older one certainly did. His last words before the closing credits are, “Here’s what I remember most: her embrace. Her belief in me. And the joy she gave. That was her gift. When I think of her now, I think of that time when a dream came true. And my only talent was not to close my eyes.”