Film Review: My Week With Marilyn
Dammit, if only this movie was a pretentious, 3 hour bore, then I could make an inspired pun on the title.
Luckily, it isn’t.
Unluckily, it’s not that great, either.
TL;DR Michelle Williams acts her butt off. Everything else is utterly inconsequential, and Marilyn is essentially a rude, manipulative bitch. 2 out of 5 stars.
The main problem is the shittiness of the 2 main characters. That’s Marilyn and Colin, a spirited young man who dreams of working in the movies.
Let’s start with Marilyn.
First of all, Michelle Williams does do a pretty fantastic job with the role. I’ve never been much of a fan. And her pixie cut is boring. But she does exceptionally well here, managing to play both the seeming innocence of Marilyn, as well as her man-eating alter-ego.
And that’s the problem. Marilyn is just too unlikable. The success of the movie hinges on the viewer being able to believe in and care (me? Care? That was never going to work) about the relationship between Marilyn and Colin. And I didn’t. Time and time again, Marilyn gets to the set late, doesn’t co-operate, lets her acting coach overrule the director. On one occasion when she does actually decide to show up, she just goes and lies around in a drug-induced stupor in her dressing room, waiting for someone to give her attention.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a selfish character. Her isolation and despair is what drives her to these actions, which could have made me feel something for her. This is made impossible by the fact that every fucking character (except Laurence Olivier, apparently the only sane man in England) relentlessly panders to her and excuses every bit of bad behaviour because “she’s Marilyn.”
Which leads into the problem with Colin: he’s a flat character who is easily Marilyn’s biggest enabler. He is the perfect wide-eyed idealist who is ready to take a fucking cannonball of reality. But it never happens. If the movie wanted to be a dark tale of Colin losing his innocence then it might have worked, but no-one (least of all dumbass Colin) ever views their relationship negatively. It’s frustrating. And even when they do separate (because she’s a selfish piece of shit) he thinks of her fondly then goes to hook up with Emma Watson, who is totally ready to take him back. Not okay.
Marilyn is abusing her position of power to do what she wants with Colin, then gets off smelling of roses. I know IRL she totally died because of her habits, but that’s not part of this movie.
Everything else in the movie is pretty sweet, though, if almost entirely inconsequential.
The performances all around are pretty good. Everything looks great (especially Williams), and it’s all quaint. If a little too quaint.
Why I hate this movie:
Fucking Marilyn. The only person to even come close to calling her out on her bullshit is Olivier, who eventually forgives her for almost ruining him because she is apparently an amazing actress.
Hell, even Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh, fully expects her husband and Marilyn to start having an affair. And she’s pretty much like “it’s cool. Because she’s Marilyn.” GAAAHHH!
Colin is horrifyingly dull. His only attribute is that he’s nice. Oh, and that he is totally blind to Marilyn’s dickishness, but everyone seems to be afflicted by that one.
The acting coach is a stupid bitch. You know what you shouldn’t do to a blatant narcissist? Tell them that they’re always right. Idiot.
Olivier doesn’t do enough to get his shit under control. He’s the goddamn director and lead actor. Man up.
When Colin first elbows his way into getting a job for the film, the first task they show him doing (after answering phones) is booking the accommodation for Marilyn. What the fuck? Why the hell would they entrust an extremely important job to someone who is basically an intern, and one they weren’t even looking for and didn’t want anyway? And they don’t show that they had a backup plan. They literally task this random off the street with securing a house for Marilyn fucking Monroe.
Oh, and Emma Watson’s character is hilariously inconsequential and is really just a safety net for Colin’s penis.
Reasons to watch:
If you want to see Michelle Williams act the shit out of an iconic role, this is the place. Goddamn.
Judi Dench is great as the aging stage actress Sybil Thorndike. Even though she only gets a couple of scenes, and in them she is enabling Marilyn, she’s sweet as hell.
Vivien Leigh also gets a couple of sadly touching scenes. I felt bad for her.
Kenneth Branagh as Olivier is hilarious and grounded. He’s the only rational person on the set. I personally view him as the hero of the story.
And as horrible as she is most of the time, there is still something charming about Marilyn. I hate myself for that one.
I know this is based on a memoir, so we have to assume the characters’ portrayals are limited by the truth. But there’s a line where a character who is supposed to come across as flawed and human steps into irredeemable douchebag territory, and unfortunately My Week with Marilyn trips right over it. Good thing she has two fantastic airbags. 2 out of 5 stars.