My Week With Marilyn (2011) Review (R)
I thought about reviewing an older film today, Charley Varrick (a film that had an apparently huge impact on Quentin Tarantino), but I think it would require a little more time to hammer out all of the things I wanted to say with that one (and I have art jobs to do), so I went with ‘Marilyn’. You might say this is an older film, too… and you’d be right; it was released in 2011… but at least it’s in the realm of the contemporary.
Film critic Roger Ebert has described himself as an anglophile, someone who loves British culture and more specifically British films. I don’t know if I would describe myself the same way, but I do like British movies. Generally there seems to be a higher level of intelligence in them, but there are reasons for that. Many of those reasons are economic. They have tighter budgets than American films so the emphasis is put on the writing instead of FX and spectacular sets/visuals. We also tend to get the cream of their crop, also, as with all foreign made products. Many of the productions that fail elsewhere are unlikely to ever make it to our shores. But British films can also get a tad… I don’t know… Dry? Stuffy? Pretentious? Maybe even a little… and I’m going to use a word that I really don’t like using… ‘metrosexual’… You know, certain films for certain types of people that usually go to art gallery openings, sip wine, appear to be a thoughtful interesting person but not so much that they don’t blend in with the favored crowd. You know the types. This movie is for them. It certainly wasn’t a film for me and I have to question whether there was a story found here that was actually worth putting on the big screen.
The story is (supposedly) true and recounts what the title suggests. A young Hollywood wannabe (Eddie Redmayne) finagles himself into the film industry by loitering in a producer’s office. He finds himself on a film set with acting legend Sir Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branaugh) who is directing his first movie The Prince And the Showgirl. Olivier has cast Hollywood/sex icon Marilyn Monroe as his leading lady. According to this film, the actor wanted to accomplish two things with the film other than becoming a great director. He was an acknowledged great actor, but he wanted to be a star. he also wanted to sleep with his co-star. Marilyn Monroe was already the star that Olivier dreams of becoming and is a mirror of sorts for Olivier. She wants to be taken seriously as an actress. The idea for both of them was that a little of the preferred magic would rub off for each of them. It doesn’t. In fact, they quickly become passive aggressive towards one another with Marilyn’s irresponsible nature clashes with Olivier’s anal retentiveness. The young wannabe, Colin, a third unit director (an assistant) quickly becomes seemingly the most important person on the set since he’s the go between for Olivier and Monroe. The story after that setup isn’t really a sequence of events that lead to something, but more like a collection of memories where the person remembering is there standing around with other people standing around.
The one adjective that comes to mind in describing this movie is ‘quaint’. It has the standard lovingly nostalgic look at the film industry of an era gone by (how else can it be seen by people working in the industry?). All aspects of the film are done with professionalism, both in front and behind the camera, but is that there is nothing noteworthy about it. The actors are adequate. Michelle Williams does a reasonably good job of doing her own thing here as iconic star Marilyn Monroe, but she has nowhere near the innate star power of the icon she’s portraying… Or at least she doesn’t show it here. She’s better at portraying the character behind the scenes, rather than when Marilyn is performing for the camera (or when trying to capture her persona if that makes any sense). She is closer than Branaugh is to Olivier, though. Branaugh is a decent actor and does his thing here, but is just the wrong guy to portray the late actor. Again, it’s the onscreen presence thing. If they weren’t be compared to real stars then I think their performances would be just fine.
Redmayne is a notch below these other two, though. The fact that the story is comprised of mostly non-happenings and him doing nothing more than listening to other people does not help. He’s not a protagonist as much as he’s present when other people are talking. Director Simon Curtis isn’t really interested in the main character. He doesn’t even show the work that Colin puts in trying to impress the people he wants to work for. He puts forth a problem like “I need this person’s phone number, but it’s not listed”, you just get the successful end result instead of showing him scrambling. Colin’s biggest problem in the film is that he has to go hang out with the hot actress. Darn it… Then there are the end titles letting you know what happened to the three characters after the events onscreen take place, as if this depicts anything that is the ’cause’ for those ‘effects’. It isn’t. It isn’t about Colin’s climb to the top. It isn’t about Olivier. It isn’t about Marilyn. It just isn’t. I fail to see what the film was trying to do other than to create nostalgia and in that it reminded me of another film from the UK, ‘An Awfully Big Adventure’ that had the same sort of effect on me. It failed to have a point. As I said, it’s not any kind of train wreck in how it’s made, it’s just what was made is useless to anyone, except to maybe hardcore fans of one of the parties involved. On a parting side note, I also thought this was another example of being ‘unnecessarily’ Rated R. The material didn’t warrant it. Other than maybe one too many curse words and Marilyn’s bottom, I can’t remember anything objectionable. If I see a rated R film… Well, I need more or otherwise, don’t make it an R film. I also don’t like when they sanitize a film to get it a PG-13 rating, but this is a movie essentially trying to capture nostalgia, so even the tone of the film is askew. Yet another thing the director got wrong here. Maybe this script shouldn’t have gotten the green light.