My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams is transcendent as Marilyn

Acting is hard.  Trying to portray someone who is already an icon of our culture is that much harder.  For any woman to take on the role of Marilyn Monroe would be daunting, yet Michelle Williams is brilliant as the troubled movie star in My Week with Marilyn.

The year is 1956, and Marilyn is trying to establish herself as a serious, competent actress, not just a sex symbol.  She is making The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, and it isn’t going well.  Olivier, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his time, had little patience for intellectualized method acting, and was driven to distraction by Marilyn’s incessant tardiness and her need for interminable takes of the same scene.  Marilyn, enormously insecure, accompanied always by her acting “coach” Paula Strassburg who over-ruled Olivier’s directing, was a trial to work with, but the end result was spectacular.

In the midst of all of this was a 23 year old go-fer, third assistant director Colin Clark, a starstruck scion of nobility in his first job.  It is to him that Marilyn turns for solace when he husband, Arthur Miller, flees the chaos and returns to New York.  For  few brief days they share a special time that will ultimately mean little to the movie star and provide a lifetime of memories to the luckiest young man in history.

Michelle Williams is supported in this excellent film by the always Kenneth Branagh, the modern version of Olivier, and Dame Judi Dench. The hero is played by Eddie Redmayne, who succeeds as a warm and gentle young man, and is not overwhelmed by his very noted colleagues.

Gail and I were surprised to see in the credits that Arthur Miller was played by Dougray Scott–5 years ago we attended his wedding to Claire Forlani, and yet we didn’t recognize him at all.

My Week with Marilyn is a tremendously good motion picture, and Michelle Williams turns in the performance of a lifetime.  Still playing at the Rheem Theater, go see it.

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