My Week With Marilyn is a high-quality British film that doesn’t have the depth of last year’s The King’s Speech, but should have a similar appeal to discerning grown-ups.
It’s an enchanting tragi-comedy, a hugely enjoyable trifle, and may prove an eye-opener to generations too young to remember the allure of Marilyn Monroe.
It is based on Colin Clark’s memoir of a week as third assistant director, or dogsbody, on an indifferent British film comedy, The Prince And The Showgirl (1957).
The reason that movie is remembered today is that it marked a clash between superstars from either side of the Atlantic, and two completely different styles of acting.
The actress playing the showgirl was Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), newly married to intellectual playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) and already having doubts about the relationship.
Williams has given exquisite performances before in Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine and the little-seen Incendiary, but here she’s at her most magical, brilliantly capturing Marilyn’s voice and physical mannerisms.
Never content to play her as a victim, she captures her emotional neediness and her power to entrance, on and off screen.
Williams must surely be nominated again for an Academy Award as Best Actress (the real Marilyn, of course, never won an Oscar).
I suspect she will be joined in the Best Supporting Actor category by Kenneth Branagh, always a superb character actor, here presenting a delightfully accurate take on Laurence Olivier: theatrical, endlessly exasperated by Marilyn’s lack of professionalism and uneasily aware that she looks better on screen than he does.
Eddie Redmayne also excels in the challenging task of playing Clark, an intelligent but inexperienced 23-year-old Old Etonian who has to toss up between a relationship with a pretty wardrobe mistress (Emma Watson, excellent in her first big-screen role since Harry Potter) and a chance of love with the most famous woman on Earth.All-star cast: Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh in the film
The film is worth seeing for its marvellous array of British acting talent. I especially enjoyed Judi Dench as the kindly Dame Sybil Thorndike, Jim Carter as a star-struck barman and Philip Jackson as Marilyn’s down-to-earth bodyguard.
This is a bittersweet story of first love. Perhaps Adrian Hodges’s script could have been sharper and a little less eager to spell out what is happening and why, but it’s elegantly directed in his big-screen debut by TV veteran Simon Curtis: delightful, classy entertainment.