Week with Marilyn serves as a painful reminder that films like The Artist and actresses like Marilyn
Monroe are few and far between, and that audiences are too often treated to
over-budgeted, aggrandized E! True Hollywood Story-style flicks instead. Where The Artist’s portrayal of an actor’s struggle with fame and public image speaks
to the struggles and triumphs within us all, My Week with Marilyn’s parallel subject matter caters to Keeping Up with the Kardashians-esque
The story behind My Week with Marilyn is told by Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a 23-year-old film lover from an aggressively bookish
British family. He travels to London to work as the third assistant director
for the film The
Prince and the Showgirl, starring Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Clark meets and falls in love with Monroe, who is, at
this moment, meteorically famous, 30 years old and at the beginning of her third
marriage to Arthur Miller. The rest of the film is spent watching Marilyn
break down while Clark makes puppy-dog eyes at her and tells her how special
and misunderstood she is. He is portrayed as the lifeline tethering her to this
reality, without whom she would never have had the courage to finish the The Prince and the Showgirl. (What?!
Why does this film keep insisting that Monroe is too scared and nervous to act?
She’d been shaking it for the camera for years at this point. I chalk it up to
Clark’s desire to see Monroe as someone intimidated by England and high art whom he could, therefore, lord over).
The film is 99 minutes of Monroe
hissy fits that serve to align the spectator with Clark’s image of Marilyn as a poor, misunderstood child, but certainly not to
entertain. This is the woman who exploited the confused sexuality of the 1950s
for copious amounts of cash. She seduced the President, the U.S. Attorney
General and one of America’s best playwrights. She formed her own production
studio and worked against nuclear proliferation, segregation and McCarthyism. Monroe was no weak child who could not understand her effect. She got it. It is we who continue to misunderstand.
I do not wish to deride Michelle
Williams—she was a great Jen for Dawson’s
Creek and Alma for Brokeback Mountain—but
her attempt to portray Monroe only highlights the film’s failure to comprehend
the icon’s allure. My Week with Marilyn
reduces Monroe to drugs, blond hair and boobs. Everyone in this movie is
constantly remarking upon her irresistible and electrifying presence, and
yet this indescribable charisma—tangible within the first seconds of a
grainy YouTube clip of the real Marilyn—never materializes in Williams. We keep looking for Marilyn in Williams and yet all that appears is a mascara-streaked child,
caught playing dress-up with her mother’s pearls. Williams is not alone in her inability
to embody the Hollywood legends of the ’40s and ’50s. Julia Ormond as
Vivien Leigh and Branagh as Olivier, though not at all
bad, visibly illustrate the difference between an actor and a legend.
Unsurprisingly, the film is based on real-life Clark’s account of his time with her. Clark casts himself as the
quintessential “nice guy” whom Monroe would totally
be with if she knew what was best for her. But, as the film assures us time and
time again, she cannot take care of herself, does not know her own mind and
cannot handle her own success. Maybe some day we’ll get to see a movie about a
woman who is successful without being haunted by all the home-cooked meals she
never prepared for her husband.