My Week With Marilyn, is the adaptation of two memoirs by British director/producer Colin Clark, who started his film career as a gofer on The Prince And The Showgirl, directed by and starring Laurence Olivier, and co-produced by and starring Marilyn Monroe.
The film captures the conflicts between Sir Laurence and Marilyn Monroe, the shy immature woman who struggles with the fact that the only thing men see is her beauty. Unfortunately, for some that was true, but in this film, Colin is portrayed as her savior. The guy who understands her and defends her to the end.
The book takes a serious look at her life on the silver screen. It shows us Marilyn the adult, very beautiful but frolicking in the fields like a school girl whose insecurities are very real. She has abandonment issues and even asks why everyone leaves her.
At this point in her career, her addiction to sleeping pills and alcohol is well underway. At thirty, she's already been married three times, and she's still using her sensuality to lure men into her arms despite her claims that it bothers her. Perhaps, her attention getting tactics are just that. She's habitually late for the set and pushes everyone's buttons. Robert Portal, who plays David Orlon as the director has offered advice to Sir Laurence telling him to roll with the punches when it comes to Marilyn and things will be fine. Although he tries, he ultimately blows up. But that pushes Marilyn over the edge because she's already convinced they don't like her. Marilyn retaliates by taking too many pills and doesn't show up on the set the next day. Control anyone? She's got the control!
The primary difference between the film and Clark’s books is that the books portray his personality much more, than in the movie. Colin, is only 23 when he prevailed upon Olivier, who happened to be an old friend of his rich, well-connected parents, but to make his connection in the industry, he's willing to do what it takes.
In the book, his diary is full of the energy and arrogance of what could be classified as a sheltered, well-educated, full-of-himself twentysomething just starting his career. And he seemingly judges everyone around him as the know-nothing goons and slackers.
As you sit and watch this onscreen adaption, it quickly becomes apparent that Marilyn is overwhelmed. She's not an actress and she's afraid of the camera, although she's the first to pose when she sees one. But her posing is mostly related to her sexuality. She doesn't like the fact that that is all that anyone ever sees: her beauty. Yet, she's the first to flaunt it.
Quotes from Clark's book:
I have been watching MM very closely. She is really like a lovely child. Whatever possessed her to become an actress? I suppose it was some sort of clichéd idea about Hollywood. In America pretty blondes with buxom figures often think that they are meant to be film stars. Or perhaps it was some man who found that the quickest way into her pants was to promise that he could get her into movies.
Clark isn’t usually so catty, but he is utterly confident he has all the answers that have somehow escaped everyone else. For instance, only he sees that Olivier and Monroe have both picked the wrong part for themselves: Monroe has come to England because she thinks she’ll be taken seriously by working with one of the most celebrated stage actors of her time, but her role is a fluffy, giddy, manipulative chorus girl, too much like her past roles. Olivier, meanwhile, wants to be seen as a Monroe-level superstar and hopes some of her glamour and youth will rub off on him, but he’s playing a stiff, stuffy role in the stagiest way possible. And Clark certainly has nothing nice to say about Monroe’s new husband, Arthur Miller:
AM went off to Paris today, which may explain why MM was in such bad shape yesterday… AM seems big-headed, insensitive and super-selfish. I never saw him look tenderly at MM, only with what looks like a sort of boasting self-satisfaction. What bad luck on MM. Why couldn’t she have found what she really needs—someone sympathetic to support her? She doesn’t move around with those sort of people I suppose.
On screen, his character is a fresh-faced, nice young man, who's a personality-free cipher and experiencing the blush of a first love. More specifically, he’s experiencing it with one of the era’s biggest celebrities, a lush and lovely, vulnerable, wounded superstar who briefly turns the full intensity of her personality and her sexual wiles on him as she attempts to use him for comfort in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable setting. It’s heady stuff, but it’s much headier in the film, where Clark is so innocent and ingénue-like that he basically stands as a relatable symbol for youthful naïveté, the kind of character who only exists in the realm of nostalgia. As Eddie Redmayne plays him in the film—with a big, self-effacing smile and tender eyes—he’s meant to present no resistance as viewers put themselves in his place in order to feel what it would be like to be young and in love again. And in love with a glamorous movie star, at that.
Contrast this with some of Clark’s actual diary entries about Monroe:
- “AM certainly doesn’t behave like America’s most eminent intellectual. More like an overgrown schoolboy. But MM has a very appealing aura, even if physically she is not my type. A bit too exaggerated… her figure—and especially her bust—is fantastic but a little on the plump side. Problems—too much fakery: peroxide hair, dead white make-up, heavy lipstick, but that is her image.”
- “When MM did arrive [for a screen test] we all got a shock—except Whitey [her makeup man], I suppose. She looked absolutely frightful. No make-up, just a skirt, a tight blouse, head scarf and dark glasses. Nasty complexion, a lot of facial hair, shapeless figure and, when the glasses came off, a very vague look in her eye. No wonder she is so insecure.”
- “…the process of acting is very frightening for her. She needs [drama coach Paula Strasberg] a few feet away and Lee [Strasberg] at the end of a phone to reassure her. But there is no easy formula, no short cut. I suspect that there have been quite a few ‘Paulas’ in the past, and all of them will ultimately fail because they are substitutes for a training which is just not there.”
- “The trouble is that MM simply cries out for someone to control her, and no one can resist trying to do so. She dumps her problems in Paula’s lap, and then while the wretched woman is trying to sort them out, MM goes and dumps them on someone else, and they start working on them, and so on.”
- “A girl like that really needs her mum… but I’m told her mum is in a bin.”
- “Even seeing MM in the nude had left me cold—well not exactly cold, to be honest, but not in love.”
Despite these entries, it doesn't stop him from falling for her as she begins to lean on him more and more. And it isn't as though he hasn't been warned about her powers.
I thought the acting was superb and every time Michelle Williams appears on the screen, we see a strong resemblance to Marilyn--and her mannerisms confirm that fact. Colin is played by Eddie Redmayne, and Kenneth Branagh is cast as Sir Laurence himself. All in all, I give this movie 4 thumbs up and I think it's worth seeing.