Saturday, 26 November 2011

Review: My Week with Marilyn

Rating: 15
Duration: 99 mins

Much hype has surrounded the release of Simon Curtis's début, which focuses on the troubled portrayal of one of the 20th Century's most iconic figures and how Michelle Williams handles the massive responsibility of fulfilling the legendary role. 

Funded by the BBC, My Week with Marilyn in based around the on-set events of the 1957 feature The Prince and the Showgirl – a feature directed by and featuring Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh). Reworked from the diary entries from the production’s 3rd Assistant Director, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), we follow the relationship that forges between the fresh-faced AD and the ever-pressured Monroe in what feels very much like a BBC drama. So much so, it wouldn't feel out of place being broadcast on a Sunday evening slot on said channel, so you can imagine the underwhelmed nature it imposes on the big screen.

A period piece that works with a modest budget of little over £6m is commendable, yet it rarely convinces in set up: the locations (bar it being filmed in Pinewood Studios where the original Olivier/Monroe film was actually shot in) merely offer a whiff rather than full on conviction in comparison to The King's Speech for example. A lack of atmosphere therefore renders it a little stale, relying solely on the capabilities of the actors to carry the already character reliant script.

For Williams - having become one of Hollywood's most talented female leads with acclaimed efforts in Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine ­ it would seem the weight really is on her shoulders whether the picture floats or sinks. For what it's worth, she gives a noble performance bearing a striking similarity at times, as she nails the iconic mannerisms, yet one cannot help but find the portrayal a semi-parody, or at least unintentionally, due to the sheer amount of impersonations and recreations the world has seen over the years.

Kenneth Branagh perhaps offers the most accomplished function as the tyrannous Olivier as he shows a range from calm, broodiness to erupting anger: an Oscar nomination will surely hither his way via a support nod. However, the rest of the cast, including Redmayne as Colin Clark, are limp and largely unlikeable in nature. Never do we find ourselves sympathising with his plight over having to chose between blonde bombshell or lowly wardrobe assistant Emma Watson (complete with dodgy fringe), as it's confirmed that she simply needs more acting lessons to be taken seriously.

What's more is that Dame Judy Dench is painfully underused, with her inclusion feeling a tad insulting and begs the question: why is she even there? In fact, none of the characters come close to actually engaging and emotionally capturing its audience, even during Monroe's darkest scenes: we see a woman who is unsure of herself, but also comes across as both a naive, yet manipulative sexual figure.

The majority of the film runs at a gentle and typical period drama pace considering the nature of its context: overly romanticised and cheesy scenarios raise the cringe factor with a sensibility that doesn't bare much weight in today's world. Admittedly, the mundane events that gradually unfold are acknowledged as non-fiction, but the fact that Emma Watson's Lucy is completely fabricated suggests that the memoirs of Clark were even more laboriously dull than what we see on screen.

Sure to please some audiences and quite possibly enthral die-hard Monroe fans, My Week with Marilyn plods along with a weak and frankly uninspiring narrative that feels far longer than its 99 minute runtime. The biggest problem isn't Williams’ attempt to recreate Marilyn Monroe, but the fact that everyone around her lacks any depth, likeability or redeeming qualities therefore makes the entire concept very difficult to care about and engage with. An Oscar nod for Williams is a cert, but whether she should win based on the film’s merit is another matter entirely.