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My Week With Marilyn

My Week With Marilyn
4
Wednesday December 7th, 2011

In 1957 Sir Laurence Olivier prepared to make a film version of a new play he had co-starred in with his famous wife, Vivien Leigh, just 3 years earlier. It was called The Sleeping Prince but the film's title would be changed to The Prince and the Showgirl. Terence Rattigan one of the best dramatists of the era and the play's author was brought in to write the screenplay. The cinematographer would be the great Jack Cardiff. Olivier would not only star but also direct and replacing Vivien Leigh would be the cinema's reigning sex goddess and one of the biggest movie stars in the world, Marilyn Monroe.

With so many heavyweights involved in a project it's interesting that The Prince and the Showgirl seems to have largely endured because of the memoirs of Olivier's 3rd assistant director, Colin Clark.

Colin Clark was an unlikely choice for a glorified go-fer on a movie set. He was educated at Eton College and hailed from an affluent family. His father was Kenneth Clark the distinguished art historian and future host of the landmark BBC series Civilisation in the 1970's.
Clark's experiences on that film were the subject of his later books The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and My Week With Marilyn and they became the source material for this very entertaining drama from BBC Films.

Michelle Williams delivers a great performance as the 1950's screen legend. She shines when imitating Monroe's screen performances and is perfectly in sync with Marilyn's insecurities and emotional neediness. This role is 180 degrees from her excellent work earlier this year as a rugged pioneer woman on the Oregon Trail in Meek's Cutoff and it certainly establishes her versatility as an actress.

Eddie Redmayne is outstanding as Colin Clark a starstruck young man who spent one tempestuous week as a confidant to Marilyn Monroe as well as a liaison between her and Sir Laurence Olivier. And the word liaison is apropos here considering the level of tension on the set between Olivier's growing frustration with Monroe's lateness and inability to remember lines and Marilyn's coterie including her agent and method acting coach, Paula Strasberg.

Kenneth Branagh's Olivier is an aging star hoping to recapture youth by working with Monroe. He's pretty good but his role here doesn't afford him much opportunity to do more than react to her eccentric behavior. But on those few occasions when he is permitted to show the great man's softer side he nails it.

The talented cast includes Judi Dench as Dame Sybil Thorndike, a cast member who defends Monroe when Olivier loses patience with his co-star, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh and a post- Harry Potter Emma Watson as a romantic interest for Clark.

This is a nice piece of nostalgia and a good inner look at a screen icon who continues to fascinate us a half century after her tragic demise.