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My Week with Marilyn Review: Williams and Branagh Scintillating; New Clips & Promo Image

Photo of Matt Mueller By Matt Mueller | Thompson on Hollywood November 23, 2011 at 5:24PM

My Week with Marilyn Review: Williams and Branagh Scintillating; New Clips & Promo Image
MWWM, promo

Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh are both on scintillating form as Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier while a glorious crop of British acting royalty (Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Zoe Wanamaker, Julia Ormond) fill in the borders of director Simon Curtis’ "My Week with Marilyn" adaptation (from a memoir by Colin Clark) with colour and verve. Whether it all adds up to a film that will garner awards-season love is debatable (despite the stiff-upper-lip pedigree and evocative ‘50s setting, it’s not nearly as Academy friendly as "The King’s Speech"), but Williams, Branagh and the sumptuous costumes and art direction are certainly in with a shout.

Per the title, the film takes place over a week during the making of "The Prince And The Showgirl," as greenhorn Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) cajoles his way into a personal-assistant’s gig on Olivier’s production and is there to witness the fractious, mistrustful relationship between two oversized legends as director and star squabble over her chronic tardiness and his crabby intolerance. As Monroe, Williams is just superb, going far beyond impersonation into an internalized, instinctive space that brings the platinum-blonde sex symbol’s messy vulnerability to vivid life. If she’s less convincing when asked to convey Marilyn’s va-va-voom charisma (the resemblance isn’t exactly prodigious), it doesn’t matter so much because the trepidatious insecurity is so tangible and heartbreaking.
Branagh is also magnificent as Olivier in a performance that does lean towards impersonation but doesn’t lack for wit, intelligence or bite. The film misses him badly when he’s not on screen, particularly in the second half when he vanishes as Monroe’s relationship with Redmayne veers towards romance. The rest of a stellar cast all have their moments too, particularly Dench as Monroe’s fruity co-star Dame Sybil Thorndike, Wanamaker as her possessive acting coach-cum-babysitter Paula Strasberg and Ormond as a thin-skinned Vivien Leigh. Only Emma Watson disappoints, Harry Potter’s Hermione feeling exposed even in a fairly bland role as a young wardrobe mistress Clark falls for before the bombshell icon weaves her spell.
"My Week With Marilyn" isn’t great cinema (matching its 1957 subject on that front), but it is a nostalgic and amusing culture-clash romp that ends up being both poignant and captivating. Anyone enamoured by Hollywood history will adore it, and the Academy may find itself thoroughly smitten by Williams’ touching turn as a tremulous wreck who can hardly summon the will to function without pills, prodding and constant ear-whispering assurance.

Check out a clip below:

This article is related to: Reviews, Box Office, Genres, Awards, Headliners, Oscars

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.