Simon Curtis's My Week With Marilyn purports to take the viewer behind the curtains to meet the real Marilyn Monroe, but in truth the movie operates from a perspective as starry-eyed as the pushiest autograph hound.
My Week With Marilyn not a complete waste of time. Eddie Redmayne in the lead does the best he can with all the coming-of-age slop he's forced to shovel, while Michelle Williams does an heroic job with the impossible task of embodying the former Miss Norma Jean Baker. She strikes the right balance between trying to capture Monroe’s mannerisms and aura without getting too bogged down in impersonation to deliver an original performance. It’s not quite Christian McKay’s blow-the-doors-off performance as Orson Welles but it’s close, and McKay had better material to work with.
As Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh is a hoot, hamming it up to the point I half-expected him to yell “ACTING!” every time he finished speaking. The filmmaking scenes are by far the best in the film as Olivier quakes with frustration trying to direct his temperamental, rarely sober star who shows up hours late to the set every day only to keep everyone waiting as she works through her method acting exercises with Paula Strasberg. It takes all Olivier's patience not to yell, "Can't you just fucking PRETEND?" It would be fair to accuse Branagh of playing it all too broadly to remain convincing, but when the film is already so far from authenticity we in the audience are grateful for his effort.
Of course, for all her difficulties, when Monroe nailed a take, she nailed it like no one in the history of movies. Unfortunately, the film is just as mystified as Olivier as to where this came from. As dignified as Williams's portrayal is the film ends up diminishing Monroe, giving the impression her performances were less the result of skill than some unexplainable magic that occurred if you let the cameras roll long enough.
5 out of 10
5 out of 10