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My Week with Marilyn

Nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor at the 84th Annual Academy Awards…          It’s charming, but slight—however Michelle Williams makes it more than worthwhile. An old friend of mine(an astute Marilyn Monroe aficionado)felt that Williams deftly captured MM’s vulnerability. I’ll say. I wanted to take her home and protect her forever. But there’s more than just that. She walks that fine line between impersonation and authentic, and still avoids parody. You’ll see Marilyn and Norma Jean here, methinks. It’s the best I’ve seen Williams…she’s honed her craft to the next level as Monroe.                Now-was Laurence Olivier really such a prig? Kenneth Branagh’s incarnation makes one believe so. His performance does rely more on outright imitation, and it doesn’t always gel. Plus, Mr. Branagh’s physical features simply aren’t sharp enough to portray the theatrical giant. Miscast? Yeah, I think so-although he does have some nice moments in the third act. Still, I find it hard to fathom, that Sir Larry—one of the premier actors of the 20th century—was so beguiled by Monroe’s ability. I’ll need more than this script to make that one stick.               The plot centers around the filming of the 1957 film that would eventually be monikered, “The Prince and the Showgirl”. Olivier directed and starred, with Monroe crossing the Atlantic to play his love interest. Young Colin Clark(an able Eddie Redmayne), an assistant on the production, gets caught in MM’s web—and some sort of relationship blossoms(the film is based on his 1995 book). Marilyn’s third husband(lauded playwright Arthur Miller)was on scene by this point, but returned to America to tend to some duties there–thereby allowing a measure of cuckolding. Emma Watson has the somewhat thankless role as the “one that got away” while Clark courts Monroe(really-could you blame him?). Dame Judi Dench is in Marilyn-protector mode as Dame Sybil Thorndike. Zoe Wanamaker is a hoot as Paula Strasberg, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. And Julia Ormond(remember her?)doesn’t enable anyone to forget Vivien Leigh, but she rises to the(probably impossible)task of earnest attempt.               But this is the “Michelle Williams Show” and she will pull you totally in. She’s got the look just enough. She’s the movie star just enough. She’s relaxed and doesn’t overplay, and I’ll bet her subtle performances in recent work like “Meek’s Cutoff” and “Wendy and Lucy” were perfect training grounds for her work here. Sexy, vulnerable, spontaneous, clever—this is the Monroe you want to believe in, even if it isn’t true. She’s yummy. Sign me up as a brand new convert.          The direction is serviceable and the period is evoked beautifully. The script could be sharper-but this is unabashed, enchanting fluff. It’s a chronicle. The nostalgia is potent. I’m not sure a more commanding stab at depth would have been welcome or necessary. It’s a simple film with a rapturous actress turn as its centerpiece. And, for once, that’s more than enough.       Grade:   B


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