Friday, January 13, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: "My Week with Marilyn"

I saw "My Week With Marilyn" last night. A sweet, sweet, fun film. See it.

Included is an exemplary performance by Michelle Williams, as Marilyn Monroe, the great 20th Century film star/sex goddess. Largely a bio pic (a slice of it anyway) about  Monroe and her co-star, Lawrence Olivier, arguably the 20th Century's greatest classical actor in the English language, on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl.," a film they did together (with Olivier co-starring and also directing).

"My Week with Marilyn" is a great (albeit all too true) exploration of Monroe's emotional on-set chaos and Sir Olivier's frustrating experience trying to direct the hard -drinking, hard-drugging leading lady in the film.

But the film is more than a tragic/comedy of a star: it is also an endearing coming to age film about the narrator/leading young man, Colin Clark, who purportedly befriended Monroe during those difficult days; his part is played wonderfully by Eddie Redmayne.

Why does an actor drink, do drugs, add their personal emotional volatility to a beleaguered set? The film answers the question most emphatically: an actor's insecurity. Marilyn Monroe's oft-recorded personal and professional need for emotional balance and self-confidence was part of her sexual appeal: strong men wanted to protect her (while also being sexually turned on by her need for them). During her brief life (she died in her mid-thirties of a drug overdose) she married one of the greatest baseball players on hers or any era, Joe DiMaggio; married again, this time to probably the greatest American playwright of the 20th Century, Arthur Miller; and was subsequently mistress to a President (John F. Kennedy)' and maybe even his brother, Robert Kennedy, the US Attorney General. But probably even more telling to her popularity and enduring legend were her eye-riveting, mesmerizing screen performances, during which she became the imagined lover of millions and millions of male fans: in their fantasies they could play PRIMITIVE MAN while she curled up in their arms (and under them) as needy pussy cat.

She was not a great actress. She was a great star. Her appeal was beyond craft. It was pure serendipity. She knew it, and suffered under it.

She desperately wanted to be a serious, thinking actress, a professional who had a professionals understanding of what an how she worked. Even at the height of her career, she studied at the Actor's Studio in New York, with acting-teaching legend, Lee Strasberg; as well as under the personal tutelage of Paula Strasberg, his wife--who, as the film pointedly and comically notes, often accompanied Monroe as her personal acting coach to the set--much to this film's satiric delight.

It came too late in life. In spite of their teaching/instructing efforts, Monroe's inability to understand her great appeal as an actress, paralleled by her refusing to accept the fact that it was serendipitous and beyond her ability to replicate in any predictable fashion, led to her early insecurity-to-drug-escape demise.

All actors should see this film: (1) to see a wonderful, Award-worthy performance by Miss Williams; (2) to see a piece of Marilyn Monroe and her cinematic "stardom" history, and (3) to see themselves--their potential insecurities; and their need to fashion a craft to create a substantive floor of stability under their artistic efforts.


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