Monday, 19 March 2012

Review: My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

The myth of Marilyn Monroe the sex goddess has long been put to rest, though why any folklore should still cling to an actress who's been dead for half a century is another matter.  It's now fully understood that her bubbly, airhead seductress persona was just an act put on for the public by a deeply insecure woman who was never convinced of her own talent or personal worth.  Unfortunately, the myth of Marilyn the tragic heroine of her own life is still alive and well.  She's become the Hollywood version of Princess Diana; a beautiful woman of some talent who was catapulted into the wanted, yet unwanted position of most famous woman in the world who lived a brief, unhappy life that ended too soon under questionable circumstances.  

But the myth surrounding both these women hides some unpleasant truths about them.  Neither were notable for any real intelligence or common sense.  Both were profoundly selfish and incapable of seeing the damage that their self-pitying, self-absorbed attitudes had on those around them.  Both showed staggering unawareness and ingratitude for the incredibly lucky hand that providence had dealt them.  And both have enjoyed years of emotionally correct demands that we must all have the same feelings toward them and that we must all draw the same conclusions about them.  In Marilyn's case, we must regard her as a potentially great actress who was hobbled by her upbringing and an unjustly lonely victim of those around her who exploited her and showed her a lack of kindness. 

And, of course, we must praise her cinematic oeuvre to the echo because she came to a bad end.  Never mind that Hollywood is a rotten town, that film making is a rotten business, that legions of more talented actresses put up with far worse for far less reward, we must all regard a woman who had a talent for spontaneous showmanship and a passable light comic actress as one of the greats.

Such is the approach of My Week with Marilyn.  Based on the diaries of filmmaker Colin Clark when he was a star-struck youth acting as third assistant director to Laurence Olivier, this film chronicles the rocky making of 1957's The Prince and the Showgirl; the film that made Olivier give up film directing.  Monroe comes on the set as an honoured addition to the project, but within days her unreliability and dependence on her mother-hen acting coach starts to drive director Olivier to despair.  When Monroe takes a shine to the young Colin, he becomes her unofficial minder and we follow the passage as he falls in love with the actress.

My Week looks very nice and it has the sort of cinematography and first-tier cast including Kenneth Brannagh and Dame Judi Dench that fast track a picture toward an Oscar.  Michelle Williams works overtime trying to capture the uncapturable goal of portraying Monroe and Eddie Redmayne as Colin gives off such an air of puppy love that the studio floor must have been strewn with newspapers.

It is, however, a staggeringly sentimental film that surrenders itself entirely to the "poor Marilyn" treatment without much thought that her emotional crises are putting the careers and fortunes of other real human beings at hazard. It is also a supremely annoying film because it suffers from that curse of the modern age; the belief on the part of directors that just because modern sound equipment can pick up a whisper, the actors can whisper.  Watching the film, the wife and I had to keep turning up the volume until I became puzzled by this constant hissing sound I heard in the background.  Then it dawned on me.  We'd turned the volume up until it pegged on maximum and I was hearing the noise from the electronics, but I still couldn't hear the damn actors.

Here's a tip.  We actually understand that when actors speak louder than they would in real life (actually, anyone would speak louder than this lot unless they were hiding from zombies) that they are doing so in order for us to hear them.  We get it.  It's an acting convention.  So, don't worry.  Just tell the actors to PROJECT!

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