Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn
seen @ Kew Gardens Cinemas, Kew Gardens, Queens, NY

I didn't expect My Week with Marilyn to be spectacular, and it wasn't - far too much editing that takes you away from Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, who are both superb and make the whole thing watchable, especially Williams, whom I completely believed was Marilyn Monroe. I found the conflict between Monroe and Laurence Olivier, on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, to be particularly interesting because it represented, in its way, a clash of ideals.

When I wrote about Olivier's Hamlet, I remarked how his acting style was of another era, one much more stage-like and formal in comparison to that of the Brando Method generation, and indeed, the movie placed this dichotomy front and center. According to the movie, Monroe came to the set of Prince with an acting coach - Paula Strasberg, wife of Method master Lee Strasberg - and Monroe kept her within arms length at all times because she was so intimidated at working with a legend like Olivier, who also directed Prince. For his part, Olivier is depicted as being scornful of the Method; he briefly mentions how he disapproved of his wife Vivien Leigh working with Elia Kazan.

In Week, Paula Strasberg is constantly propping up Monroe's self-confidence, telling her again and again how great an actress she is, and I thought she was just soothing her ego. It turns out that the Strasbergs thought very highly of her acting ability, and Lee Strasberg apparently once said he believed her second only to Brando himself out of all the actors he worked with. At one point in Week, Monroe is so frustrated with Olivier's constant berating of her that she cries, "I want Lee! I want Lee!"

This is an aspect of Monroe's legend that people don't think of as much, and again, Week pays lip service to it when Olivier, frustrated, says to her at one point something along the lines of how she should just wiggle and pout and look sexy, since that's what she does best. (I think that's the point where she cries for Lee.) Developing her acting ability meant a great deal to her, and perhaps that's the true tragedy of her premature death: how much farther could she have gone? She was beginning to creep towards middle age at the time of making Prince; eventually her looks would begin to fade, a point Leigh makes in one scene in Week in talking about her own career. I suspect Monroe knew this in the back of her mind and worked on her acting to prepare for the day when her reign as a sex goddess would end.


  1. Interesting review. I was all set to go see this but ended up having to miss it so I've been wondering how it's been received. So far it seems like a lot of people are in line with you, citing the reason to see it as the performances. I really want to see what Williams does in the role. What do you think her Oscar chances are?


  2. If Harvey Weinstein wasn't throwing his muscle behind Meryl Streep in 'The Iron Lady,' she'd probably stand a much better chance. I think Williams will probably have to chalk this one up to 'paying dues' again. Still, she is an outstanding actress and her day will come.

  3. I was reading an article about the real Marilyn in TOTAL FILM yesterday. I don't really know much about her life so I find this movie intriguing. I had no idea Branagh was playing Olivier in this film, sounds like the real Olivier and Marilyn just hated each other.

    "Developing her acting ability meant a great deal to her, and perhaps that's the true tragedy of her premature death: how much farther could she have gone?" Yeah I find that quite sad as well, and perhaps Olivier should've had more compassion towards her, y'know.

  4. Marilyn's life is definitely worth exploring further. Check out some of her old movies; I'm sure you'll like them.

    If 'Week' is any indication, I wouldn't say Marilyn 'hated' Olivier. It was more like she was intimidated by him and wanted to be worthy of being in the same movie as him.


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