It’s 1956. Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) has just married playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). She’s deep into her drug use and her demons are winning. Sir Laurence Olivier (the always amazing Kenneth Branagh) hires Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a recent Oxford graduate, as third assistant on production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
The set is a flitter with expectation of meeting the iconic and attractive Monroe. She shows up late, flubs her lines, disagrees with Olivier on whether her character would actually utter those lines and then, stops showing up. Olivier’s frustration yields to anger and impatience. His wife Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond) is jealous of Monroe’s youth and the way her husband looks at her.
Monroe’s instability and depression call the shots. Some days she’s unable to leave her bed and lacks the psychological stamina to act. Her acting coach Paula (Zoë Wanamaker) is usually able to keep her together. Miller leaves and Monroe is inconsolable. Now, no one can help her.
Enter Colin Clark. Clark like the rest of the crew is smitten with her. She is having difficulty dealing with the public’s expectations. She’s surrounded by yes people. Colin is guileless. He answers her questions honestly yet diplomatically. Monroe is no dummy no matter her drug haze. She detects his ability to be honest, despite the disdain he receives from the others. He soon learns firsthand everything he has been warned about.
I was surprised by the humor in My Week with Marilyn. You get witty banter and well-timed quips. This is much needed, especially with the portrayal of Monroe as an emotional vampire. She’s able to make anyone feel special, yet also able to drain energy in an attempt to heal her deep sorrows and emotional voids. Her pain is palpable, as are the frustration and sorrow she creates for those who fall under her spell. She lives in a fish bowl where she needs to be loved, yet the constant attention and desire does nothing to fill her voids. She continues in her cycle of moving on—from one man to the next—still seeking the love that will end her pain. Oy, Marilyn.
This movie is based on two journal-style books Clark wrote documenting his time on the set and with Marilyn: The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn.
Director: Simon Curtis
Run time: 100 minutes