Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Week with Marilyn (DVD/Blu-ray Combo) (2011)

My Week with Marilyn(2008 HOLIDAY TEAM)The real Marilyn Monroe was an inch and a half taller than Michelle Williams, a significant difference when one considers that there is no way Williams could have replicated the voluptuous physicality of Monroe's presence. Yet, the young actress does something quite unexpected in capturing the essence of Monroe's wounded psyche for all its frailties and doing a convincing job of conveying the public Marilyn for all her breathy sensuality in this modest 2011 showbiz tale. Directed by British TV veteran Simon Curtis and written by Adrian Hodges, the film depicts a minor piece of motion picture lore based on the memoirs of Colin Clark, who was a lowly "third assistant director" during the production of the Ruritanian romance, The Prince and the Showgirl. The mostly forgotten 1957 movie marked Monroe's attempt at being taken seriously as an actress in a well-publicized collaboration with Sir Laurence Olivier just after she married playwright Arthur Miller.

The story really begins with Monroe's arrival in London to start filming. Fully devoted to Lee Strasberg's school of Method acting, she constantly searches for her character's motivation even within the context of a soufflé-light drawing room comedy. With sychophantic acting coach Paula Strasberg constantly by her side, she is chronically tardy on the set keeping her distinguished British company of thespians waiting for hours. Monroe's already renowned insecurities become heightened by Olivier's abrasive impatience as not only her co-star but her director. As a witness to her undeniable aura, the young Colin becomes smitten as he is assigned to be her protector when she begins to bond with him after Miller returns to New York. This leads to a getaway visiting Windsor Castle and Eton College before a comparatively more confident Monroe returns to the set. The film is bookended by Williams' fearlessly entertaining takes on the Monroe classics, Irving Berlin's "Heat Wave" and Harold Arlen's "That Old Black Magic" (although completely out of their original context).

Williams tackles the impossible with her empathetic performance as Monroe, and she manages it with aplomb without resorting to outright impersonation. One deliberate exception is the enchanting little dance she does as her character in the movie within the movie she mimics Monroe perfectly in those few moments. Eddie Redmayne plays the callow Colin to the best of the screenplay's workmanlike limitations since the only hint of complexity is breaking the heart of the young costumer played in a fetching manner by an underused Emma Watson. As Olivier, Kenneth Branagh captures the ego-driven bluster and measured speech cadence of the legendary actor, but he is also underserved by Hodges' script. Judi Dench again steals her scenes as a fellow scene-stealer, Dame Sybil Thorndike. Barely making a ripple in the story are Julia Ormond as Olivier's then-wife, Vivien Leigh, with just a hint given of her descent into madness, and Dougray Scott as a taciturn Miller. For all its flaws, the film is worth seeing for Williams' mesmerizing work, for example, the scene where she romps through the English countryside conveying Monroe's sense of freedom in a way that recalls a similarly poignant scene in The Misfits.

First off, I tip my hat to Michelle Williams. She gave a valiant effort in trying to pull off an icon, but she only got it 50% right. What she DID nail was Marilyn's emotions: vulnerablility, insecurity, brokeness, and need to be loved. She painted a beautiful picture of wounded woman. Where she missed the mark big-time was in not nailing the charisma, sex appeal, bombshell MOVIE STAR quality that men were captivated by and women wanted to attain. Sorry, but Ms. Wiliams, as good of an actress as she is, simply lacks the glamour, punch and va-va-voom flair of an old Hollywood starlet. This was like casting Anne Hathaway to play Elizabeth Taylor just wouldn't work. When playing someone famous, simply being a good actor won't do you have to have at least *some* of the essence of the person being emulated. Marilyn was lost in her internal drama a lot of the time, but she knew how turn it on and sell the showgirl image for the cameras. Williams seemed to just be growing through the motions and looked painfully uncomfortable in any scene where Marilyn had to be "on". You get the sense that she's a painfully shy/quiet person and couldn't turn up the personality enough notches to be believable as a 50's movie star. This is where finding an actress who had a background in musical theater would have made a world of difference. [No one knows how to "sell it" better than a Broadway actress!].

The poor casting continued with Julia Ormond [laughably] as Vivien Leigh. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING about Ormond's looks and performance remotely resembled the icon america came to know and love as Scarlett O'Hara.

The only saving grace acting-wise is Kenneth Branaugh who nailed Sir Lawrence Oliver down to the very last crisply-accentuated syllable. Well done! Dougray Scott was pretty good as Arthur Miller, but [sadly] was not in many scenes.

Performances aside, the movie was slow, predictable, dull and felt inauthentic.

Buy My Week with Marilyn (DVD/Blu-ray Combo) (2011) Now

An aspiring young filmmaker spent a short time in 1956 on the set of a Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe film as an assistant director. He became close to Marilyn as many men had, and ended up a key figure in the production. Marilyn Monroe was notoriously difficult to work with in Hollywood and that is well-dramatized here. Michelle Williams IS Marilyn Monroe in this one and her performance highlights a realistic look at the difficulties that Marilyn had with trying to be a serious Hollywood actress while dealing with her insecurities and a prescription drug habit. This film was a pleasant surprise and another terrific movie to see during the holiday season.

Read Best Reviews of My Week with Marilyn (DVD/Blu-ray Combo) (2011) Here

Marilyn Monroe remains one of the most famous creations of Hollywood for the last century. In many ways she satisfied the needs of Everyman: she came form a abusive and loveless childhood, entered the realm of celluloid because of an incandescent beauty of body and face, she captured the hearts of everyone who flocked to her movies, she became the Queen of the World, and yet she was likely as fragile and insecure little porcelain doll as ever existed. MY WEEK WITH MARILYN is apparently a true story written by Colin Clark based on his diaries `My Week With Marilyn' and `The Prince, the Showgirl and Me' and in Adrian Hodges adaptation for the screen all of the above mentioned qualities of the public and private Marilyn Monroe are condensed in a 90-minute film. On many levels it works despite the rather choppy manner in which it is presented by director Simon Curtis.

1955 and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) is moving form the theater to make a movie in London. Young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a lad form a wealthy family who is obsessed with being in the film business, wants to be involved and he navigates himself a job on the set. When film star Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) arrives for the start of shooting, all of London is excited to see the blonde bombshell, while Olivier attempts to struggle to meet her many demands and acting ineptness, and Colin is intrigued by her. Colin's intrigue is met when Marilyn invites him into her inner world where she struggles with her fame, her beauty and her desire to be a great actress. It is this week of extreme fragility in Monroe's life where we discover more about Marilyn's psyche than we ever thought possible.

Populating the making of the film are Olivier's wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond), Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) who bolsters Marilyn's ego, Marilyn's current husband playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), Marilyn's acting coach and mentor Paula Strasberg (Zoƫ Wanamaker), Marilyn's contingent of American movie moguls Milton Green (Dominic Cooper) and Arthur Jacobs (Toby Jones) as well as Colin's relative Sir Owen Morshead (Derek Jacobi) and Colin's would-be girlfriend Lucy (Emma Watson) along with a massive group of supporting actors in small roles. Michelle Williams and the makeup and costume department seem less interested in re-creating a Monroe droid, instead allowing Williams to enter the persona of Monroe a wise decision and Williams accomplishes the impossible task of making us see Marilyn Monroe as a person. The remainder of the cast is quite fine as one would expect with a group of actors of this caliber. One can wonder why the many roles of Americans were cast with British actors, but that is a quibble. Though Williams has a lovely little voice in her many singing moments she does not resemble then inimitable Monroe sound and quirky vibrato but that is in keeping with creating the spirit of Monroe and not imitating or mimicking the inimitable. Alexandre Desplat once again provides a perfect music score for the film. In the end this is a satisfying if not overwhelming memoir of the one and only Marilyn Monroe. It works, thanks in large part to Michelle Williams. Grady Harp, March 12

Want My Week with Marilyn (DVD/Blu-ray Combo) (2011) Discount?

There are several compelling reasons to admire Simon Curtis' adaptation of Colin Clark's memoir "My Week with Marilyn," least of which is the story of Colin Clark! Michelle Williams nails Marilyn Monroe's vulnerability (if not always her movie star magic) in one of the year's best performances. Kenneth Branagh is terrific as the put-upon Sir Laurence Olivier, a role he seemed destined to play. Judi Dench is invaluable as Dame Sybil Thorndike, I'm surprised she didn't get a bit more attention for this showy supporting turn. Add a roster of top notch actors including Julia Ormond, Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper, Derek Jacobi, Zoe Wanamaker, Dougray Scott, and Toby Jones (to name a few) and it seems like I'd be over the moon on principle alone. The tumultuous film shoot of 1957's "The Prince and the Showgirl" (the basis for this film) is the stuff of movie making legend and the prospect of visiting this tale was virtually irresistible to me. Sight unseen, "My Week with Marilyn" was easily one of my can't miss films of 2011.

And yet, even with all of these elements going for it, "My Week With Marilyn" was a bit of a let-down for one reason. Like the book it is based on, the lead character is none of these dynamic personalities--but a rather self-serving minor player named Colin Clark (here played ably by Eddie Redmayne). As Clark would detail it (and he's made almost a lifetime career out of this story), "The Prince and the Showgirl" exists almost solely due to his relationship with Marilyn and so the focus of the film is squarely on the thing that interested me the least. Colin Clark is the self-appointed star of this tale. No matter how good everything else is, the central narrative is skewed in such a way with Clark as the hero and savior that nothing else feels particularly reliable. It's a great, great story--it's just filtered through the wrong perspective.

Unfamiliar with the tale? Two film worlds collided when Olivier, a classically trained actor, put the world's biggest movie star into his picture. The shoot was a nightmare to orchestrate as Marilyn Monroe, all uncertainty and indecision, seemed unable to fit in with the more rigid structure of filming that Olivier demanded. Williams is terrific as Monroe and captures her mannerisms and vocal quirks to perfection. As everyone (in the movie) watches her on screen, they fall instantly in love with her naturalistic allure--but I'm not sure the film entirely uncovers what was so special and magnetic in the Monroe on-screen persona. What it does do quite successfully is to bring out her humanity, gentleness and unpredictability. Foibles and all, you still want to root for this Marilyn.

The on-set part of "My Week with Marilyn" is easily its strongest component and it is fascinating to see the movie being created within the movie. But I'm far less interested in the personal life of Colin Clark. It's not Redmayne's fault, he's a talented actor that has made an impression in many other projects. I was simply never convinced that Clark had the impact he wishes us to believe. His tentative romance with Marilyn has its appealing moments, but when we spend so much time with him--I always wanted to get back to Branagh, Dench and company. I think there might still be a great movie to be made on this subject. "My Week with Marilyn" is certainly an easy recommendation for the performances, just realize that the tale lacks a bit of balance (and some believability) by being so connected to Clark's memoir. 5 star performances, but the film (for me) is about 3 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 3/12.

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