My Week With Marilyn (R)
Kimball's Peak Three
Michelle Williams deserves her vehicle; she's earned the right to put herself in the sweaty hands of cigar-chomping moguls with the power to bully esteemed actors and directors into hopping aboard the Oscar Express. She has every right to anchor that vehicle with a spot-on depiction of a real-life legend.
My Week With Marilyn comes from author Colin Clark's autobiographical remembrance of the time he talked his way onto the set of The Prince and the Showgirl and ended up aiding (the newly Mrs.) Marilyn Monroe everywhere. And as the star in director Simon Curtis' adaptation, Williams is luminous. Her Marilyn is an untouchable goddess who keeps no less than Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) under her thumb, Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) at her mercy, and every man who lays eyes on her at full attention. She totes around Method coach Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker) to act as her emotional spokesperson and throws her head back flirtatiously for the Queen's wait staff as if she were Elizabeth I tossing bread crumbs at the starving, appreciative common folk.
When she takes too many sleeping pills, or pulls the emergency brake on the film's production at will, she makes herself small, cowering like a wounded puppy until anyone who dares tell her to get it together comes off like a monster. She's Marilyn Monroe, for chrissakes, and she is also Michelle Williams. All hail the Queen.
Now, about My Week With Marilyn, the unwashed serf upon which Williams stands: What a mess.
As it's based on the memoirs of an unexpectedly important glorified production assistant, Marilyn is scant on inside-baseball verisimilitude, opting instead for a boxed-in, broad comedy in which everyone spits dialogue like they're on a timer and 90 percent of the action takes place inside a dressing room or within an interior set, and back and forth and back and forth. The only plot to speak of concerns Monroe's inability to perform the most basic functions of an actress and Olivier's inability to tell her what to do.
Always in the background stands Clark (Eddie Redmayne), an ambitious if dense lackey attempting to balance a budding romance with the wardrobe girl (Emma Watson) with Monroe's increasingly romantic demands, Olivier's shouting and a subplot involving Olivier's then-wife, Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond) thrown in needlessly.
With that inert plotting and over-the-top supporting performances, Marilyn feels small and, frankly, dumb. Watson is thrown away almost immediately, Ormond is confined to jealous asides, and Redmayne never registers as the perspective point that Monroe is meant to treasure him for. And while I'm positive that Olivier was the sort prone to spouting Shakespeare to convey emotions, it feels like an overplayed wink coming from Branagh at this point.
But the prime culprit here can be found in post-production; the film is edited to within an inch of its life. At 96 minutes, it reeks of the kind of meddling its distributors, the Weinstein Co., are well known for. In every scene, we come in too late and leave too early, and certain pivotal plot points are shown from nonsensically diverse viewpoints.
Yes, Williams is magical, but My Week With Marilyn is assembled as if it came straight from her own booze-and-pills-addled brain, and that's not a place that's conducive to creativity. Just ask Olivier.