Marilyn Monroe died August 5th, 1962; two months after her thirty-sixth birthday; dead almost fifty years yet her legacy is as vibrant as ever. A phenomenon that puzzles today, defies comprehension; a magnetism that exponentially gathers devotees with the passage of time.
The film is based on a book by filmmaker Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne as handsome, vapid “Colin”; who isn’t a touch vapid at twenty-three?); he is the “third” assistant director on a Lawrence Olivier production of “The Prince and the Showgirl”; starring the doomed Marilyn and Mr. Olivier (Kenneth Branagh, a fine actor, totally miscast as the perfectly chiseled, powerfully seductive, professional Lawrence Olivier). Their poisonous, contentious relationship comes close to devouring and destroying the cast and crew.
“Marilyn”, with her invincible pheromones, lures the star- struck and vulnerable “Colin” into her sensual, prismatic lair. Michelle Williams is beautiful, sexy, luminous, “walks the walk”, “talks the talk”; scholarly in capturing the enigmatic, maimed, tortured, tarnished spirit , of this unmatched icon of Hollywood lore. Missing was Marilyn’s craving, intellectual lust for learning; because of her roles, there was an assumption of stupidity; her insecurities, generated by her diseased formative years; lethal cures; choices that eventually lead to her demise; her tenuous, fractured mind still craved literature on a myriad of subjects. The shot of James Joyce’s “Ulysses” on her nightstand was a minimal commentary on her literary interests.
There are some delicious minor roles: Judi Dench as “Sybil Thorndike” adds levity, warmth and is the force behind the completion of the film; Dominic Cooper is “Milton Green” Marilyn’s dumped former lover and part of the production; Zoe Wannamaker, “Paula Strasberg” is Sevengali-like as Marilyn’s “method” acting coach; she earned every cent of her salary.
“My Week with Marilyn” is blissful on the eye and ear; but its core resides with this tragic woman who was incapable of rising above or understanding her massive seduction of the populace. With the conclusion of WWII women were forced back into their homes after a brief hiatus; they replaced men in jobs vacated for the war effort; Marilyn spoke to the inner most desires of men; blond, voluptuous, malleable; an unattainable goddess. In the end her demons conquered her; it is unimaginable the torments she suffered at the hands of men; used, abused, cast off; all with her consent.
She has been lionized, immortalized; Andy Warhol silkscreened her face and lips, his painterly, redundant caress freezes for all eternity her beauty and youth. Yes, Marilyn will be forever young, a shimmering, incandescent, fated figure; her overwhelming attributes, insufficient in coping with a fragile, sad, broken psyche.
“My Week with Marilyn” is not a great film but potent nonetheless; Marilyn asks the bewitched Colin, when confronted with the paparazzi if she should be “her”; Marilyn masking the damaged Norma Jeane Baker; the wounds of her traumatic childhood inhibiting, stifling any chance of normalcy, scars stunting a future, a life, love. Her final moments, looking in a mirror, envisioning nothing.