My Week With Marilyn (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Dec/110

My Week With Marilyn (2011)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

You're going to read a lot about Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn over the next couple of months. That's for two reasons:

1) She's fantastic in her role.

2) The rest of the movie is ungodly terrible.

With the stench of bad fanfiction drifting out of its blandly sordid dealings, My Week purports to tell the incredibly true story of a week long affair between one of the most famous, mysterious and beautiful screen icons of all time (Marilyn Monroe) and some twerp who was the third assistant director named Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne).

Michelle Williams is, of course, great here, which is probably of no surprise to anyone who's seen her in her indie films like Meek's Cutoff or Wendy and Lucy. Or, hell, her five minutes are great in Shutter Island. They should have made that with her as the detective instead of DiCaprio; I probably would have liked it better.

There's that smile.

But she's an actress and not an actor, so her path to a Best Actress nomination involves her playing someone emotionally fragile while still being beautiful and seductive. This is called The Not Judi Dench Method.

Speaking of, this is a British movie, of course Judi Dench is here. She is matched the supporting cast periphery by Emma Watson and Julia Ormond, who all get thankless roles, thankless meaning inconsequential and inconsequential meaning I wish they were off doing something much better. They're just nice patterns in the shit quilt that is this film.

But I suppose I've laid into it a bit without getting specific, so let's go into the issues the film has. I think the biggest issue lies in the fact that the story that's being told here is boring. As a prism to try and understand Marilyn Monroe, yes, it's alright, but as a narrative it's impotent.

She goes to England. She has some issues showing up to work on time. Lawrence Olivier hates that she uses method acting. Since he's a tyrant and Arthur Miller is busy pretending he's Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood's Glenn or Glenda, Monroe looks to young Clark as a confidant. He learns that she's under the influence of pills and handlers who may not have her best interests at heart.

Smile smile smile

But, by golly, he has her best interests at heart! Clark is young and innocent and has a big doofy smile. And he gets Marilyn Monroe, which no one else does, because he's a pretty little flower. They even share a skinny dip and a tepid kiss.

The problem here is that Clark is a gaping young twit, and Redmayne does nothing to make the sap likeable. He also possesses the same goofy half smile for most of the film's run time; you'll recognize it as when he's got his lips slightly above his teeth, gaping in bemusement. You'll also recognize this because it's in every picture I've attached for this article.

The way that Clark's youth and naivete are treated make him unbearably irritating, and the way his character is treated as a vessel of purity doubly so. His character is so wide eyed and sweet that we don't even get him slighting Emma Watson's character with anything other than affable doofiness. Hell, I can't think of a thing that he does in the film that's portrayed in a negative light.

I suppose he's supposed to be some sort of audience blank, but the thought of that repulses me on some level. You could cut him out and replace him with a cardboard cutout and you'd probably have a better movie, if the cutout ditched that terrible lip tooth facial expression.

The film takes this affair and tries to craft some deeper meaning out of it, and this flailing is painful to watch. Is this about Monroe's temperamental genius or how this affair led to greener pastures for all? Well, the first, sure, I guess, though using The Prince and the Showgirl as proof of this is quite odd; I guess no one felt up to breaking out the behind the scenes story of Bus Stop today.

That same look. For ninety minutes. It's hell.

And the latter is strangely implied at the end with a series of title cards that detail how everyone lived happily ever after, even, inexplicably, Marilyn Monroe, who died five years later. But no, instead we get "She next starred in Some Like It Hot and that was her biggest success!" Oh, shoot me in the face you fucking sycophantic filmmakers. I read one critic who I respect call this TV movie level quality, but even ABC at their Pollyanna-ist would have mentioned that all of the problems you saw here with Monroe, in this film, led to a fuck lot of worse things down the road.

It is funny in a sick way that a movie that demonizes and castigates people for using Monroe to make money is doing the exact same goddamn thing. To wit: this movie is doing exactly the same thing that the film's antagonists do.

This movie's romanticism is toxic to anyone who doesn't want the lightest, least challenging movie about Monroe that could possibly be made. Five decades later and the public is still fascinated with Monroe, but still too chicken to treat her like a goddamn adult.

Posted by Danny

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