Looking For Marilyn Monroe

10/26/2011 4:00 AM |

My Week with Marilyn

Directed by Simon Curtis

The celebrity viewed through the eyes of an ingénue confidant has its place as biographical crutch, but of all the talents who warrant closer examination and de-clichéd appreciation, Marilyn Monroe deserves far more. That’s especially the case when the obstructing-seating view comes from Colin Clark’s laughably self-indulgent story of his brush with stardom as a go-between on The Prince and the Showgirl, in a glib adaptation by TV-movie director Simon Curtis. Who needs a treatment in which it feels as if Monroe (Michelle Williams) is fighting for space with a twittish hot-and-bothered gofer (Eddie Redmayne as Colin) and a lazy, cribsheeting screenplay that expends all its intelligence on scene-wrap one-liners for Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh?

My Week is intermittently amusing culture-clash comedy with secret-suffering-starlet tragedy, as plucky Colin tries to keep the peace between the British production (headed by Branagh’s pissy Laurence Olivier) and a Marilyn cosseted by Paula Strasberg. Framed by schoolboy-grade voiceover, Colin’s dull point of view implicitly promises access (to vulnerability!) but is mere cover for the film’s unreflective recapitulation. For an actress whose history is still obscured by the shopworn projections of people looking at her, it’s difficult to justify a film reliant upon such a filter (which, as is the tell with many inferior adaptations, thinks nothing of crassly compressing a more compelling side character or two).

But a couple of weeks after the film’s appearance as Centerpiece in the New York Film Festival, it’s hard to muster even irritation, and perhaps, to question this critical filter (i.e. me), some of this frustration might come from slight disappointment with Williams. It’s a typically inward performance that gets across a fundamental almost bodily weariness and a quirky amiability, as well as a couple of great numbers, but she’s very nearly drowned out by scene-killing theme updates and Monroe as written. Or maybe we just never can get enough.

Opens November 4