My Week With (Faux) Marilyn

By Victoria Looseleaf

We love Michelle Williams, but she can’t hold a candle to Marilyn Monroe in the waifish, sex bomb, whispered-voice arena. Indeed, it’s almost painful to watch Williams, all padded hips, corseted waist and neo-torpedoed breasts, trying to emulate the tragic blonde icon in Simon Curtis’ trifle of a film, My Week With Marilyn.

Largely based on an equally slight 2000 book by British documentary filmmaker, Colin Clark, whose most notable claim to fame was working with Monroe and crew on the 1956 Sir Laurence Olivier-directed film, The Prince and the Showgirl, this flick is yet another look at the bi-polar goddess of cinema, albeit an unfortunate look.

And as Julian Barnes writes in his wispy Booker Prize winning tome, The Sense of an Ending (click here for our coverage), “memory equals events plus time,” Clark’s story may also have mutated since his stint with Sir Larry, etal, lo those many decades ago. Clark, a son of privilege (his father was the eminent art historian Kenneth Clark), is played toothily by the otherwise formidable Eddie Redmayne, and got the gig because his parents were friends with the director and his wife, Vivien Leigh, abysmally portrayed here by Julia Ormond, who seems to be one of those actors who keeps failing upwards.

In any case, how could so much go so wrong, besides the major miscasting of Williams? We’ll get to that, but first, there were actually several decent moments: Curtis, who is married to Elizabeth McGovern (Lady Grantham on PBS’s delicious Downton Abbey; click here for our take on that fabulous series), has a good Olivier in Kenneth Branagh (and if he were taller it would really work), whose disdain for the perpetually late-to-the-set sexpot erupts with more frequency than Mt. Etna.

(We gotta say, though, that we love Sir Larry, and his directorial temper shenanigans don’t surprise, cuz they come with the genius territory. To wit: his Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights; any of his Shakespeare roles; and we could go on…).



Another great English actor in this flick: Dame Judi Dench shines in the small role of Sybil Thorndike, who gently coaxes poor Marilyn through a number of not very difficult line-readings.

But as scripted by Adrian Hodges, the film is a roller coaster of clichés that we’ve heard and seen before: Although Monroe had only recently married her third husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), he ups and leaves London in a fit of disgust. (Cue pill-taking and Clark’s shoulder for Marilyn to cry on, boo hoo.) Zoë Wanamaker, on the other hand, manages a darkly comic turn as Monroe’s acting coach, Paula Strasberg, who continually promises Olivier that the great actress that is Marilyn Monroe will save the day. Nothing really does save the day – or The Week, for that matter.

And it’s even worse when Williams is asked to recreate a host of overly familiar Monroe poses: nude, windswept, half-drunk. The nadir, though, is when Williams tries to sing à la Monroe, but in her own voice. Add to that Williams’ complexion (not naturally creamy), bone structure (her schnoz seems a bit off-kilter), and weirdly styled hair that often resembles a tightly-coiled wig in bedhead mode, and there is a veritable drag-show quality to this portrayal. Where is Lypsinka when you need her! More importantly, what would Heath Ledger have thought? (We love Heath and still miss him dearly…)

Seriously, Oscars, puhleeze don’t even think about giving Michelle Williams a nod for this. Better yet, why wasn’t the film left to the dust bin of memoirs, or at least cast with someone like, well, Carey Mulligan. This just in: Okay, peeps, Michelle Williams won the Golden Globe for Best Performance By an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. Yeah, we thought your performance as Marilyn Monroe was absolutely hilarious. The movie was a hoot. Right up there with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis and Woody Allen. We’re still laughing, can’t you tell. Harumph to the HFPA!

The real life Prince and his Showgirl: Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe

About Victoria Looseleaf

Victoria Looseleaf is an award winning arts journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times, KUSC-FM radio, Dance Magazine, Performances Magazine and other outlets. She roams the world covering dance, music, theater, film, food and architecture. Have pen - and iPad - will travel! Her latest book, "Isn't It Rich? A Novella In Verse" is now available on Amazon. Thank you for reading! Cheers...
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