MY WEEK WITH MARILYN Review: Fluffy Crowd-Pleaser Posing As Prestige

I am tempted to say whatever buzz is raised around it is bound to abate come the Oscars.

rating: 3

(Our NY film festival review re-posted) At first glance, Simon Curtis' first feature film My Week With Marilyn looks to be a power move by the Weinsteins to repeat the inimitable success of 1998's Shakespeare in Love taking Best Picture over Spielberg's superior Saving Private Ryan. A look at one of the most iconic stars in film history through the eyes of an impressionable young man, My Week With Marylin comes outfitted with a top-notch British cast, handsome production values and a high-profile performance from Michelle Williams, handed the challenging task of portraying Ms. Monroe at the height of her fame. The resulting film feels overlong yet slight at 90 minutes and despite Ms. Williams struggling amicably to capture the vulnerable woman beneath the star veneer, Curtis directs a good-looking film that has little to offer besides the fleeting pleasure of watching talented thespians at work. The basis for the film comes from two books, "The Prince, The Showgirl and Me", and "My Week With Marilyn", both penned by one Colin Clark, a filmmaker who passed away in 2002. Clark, here portrayed with a mixture of charm and innocence by Eddie Redmayne (this writer enjoyed his performance as a young monk struggling with forbidden love in Black Death), is rewarded with a job as a third assistant director on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier€™s (Kenneth Branagh) film The Prince and the Showgirl, which Olivier is set to star in alongside Monroe (Williams), arriving in England with her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott and his diction owning a key scene). As the go-between swept up between Olivier€™s unnerving professionalism and his annoyance at Monroe€™s dedication to method acting, Clark is shuffled between the two stars until Monroe shows a certainly liking to the young man, who proceeds to fall for her, hard. Curtis admirably juggles a variety of B-plots in the film€™s lively first two acts €“ there€™s Clark€™s immature pursuit of a wardrobe girl (Emma Watson); Olivier€™s wife, the great Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond), attempting to come to turns with her husband€™s pining for Monroe; Monroe€™s clashes with Miller; and the various hijinks of a 1950€™s British film set. The punchy dialogue comes flying at you fast enough so that you never pause to examine whether there€™s much substance underneath. The character motivations are made clear €“ Olivier wants to romance Marilyn while reestablishing himself as a major star as opposed to a respected actor. In the meantime, Monroe struggles to be taken seriously as an actress, with most people judging the star to be nothing more than a bubbly asset with a great body. Ms. Williams captures Monroe€™s allure and intelligence and seems to suggest that there€™s scars buried deep beneath the glamour but the film is more interested in exploring Clark€™s infatuation with Monroe, relegating her to a little girl lost with flashes of almost myth-like sexuality. Redmayne is serviceable as Clark, whose romance with Monroe is played out largely as a caretaker/patient relationship although the star occasionally nearly tempts the young man to jump in bed with her. It€™s a fine balance of tasteful drama and serious acting, which is precisely the film€™s biggest fault and we shift into a dry third act the regurgitates much of what we learned and feels emotionally bare despite heaping on plenty of misty-eyed reminiscence. Early reviews from the New York Film Festival have compared this picture to The King€™s Speech, a more buttoned-up film that proved to be a hit and an Oscar winner. While attention deserves to be given to Ms. Williams for her performance (her signing and dancing is wonderful as well), the picture as a whole is just not up to par. I was not a fan of Speech and found it to be stuffy and uninspired €“ but I could still respect the tremendous performances on display. With Curtis€™ My Week With Marylin coming through a shade weaker, glossier but less involving, I am tempted to say whatever buzz is raised around it is bound to abate come the Oscars. Perhaps I am mistaken though €“ the audience at my screening were visibly moved and roared with laughter more than once. The film definitely has the potential to be a crowd pleaser and the juicy concept could sell more than a few tickets €“ yet, when the lights came up, I kept pondering what Andrew Dominik would have done with a once proposed Naomi Watts€™ starring Monroe biopic. Perhaps we€™ll know someday. My Week With Marilyn opens in the UK today.
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The best of the five boroughs is now represented. Brooklyn in the house! I'm a hardworking film writer, blogger, and co-host of "It's No Timecop" podcast! Find me on Tumblr at Our Elaborate Plans...