News / Arts & Entertainment

'My Week with Marilyn' Captures Icon's Volatility

Michelle Williams shines in story of Monroe's fling with film assistant

Penelope Poulou

In the summer of 1956, Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe joined the equally iconic British actor, Laurence Olivier, to film “The Prince and the Showgirl” in London.  

"My Week with Marilyn" is based on Colin Clark’s account of that shoot and the week he spent with the star. Directed by Simon Curtis, the film portrays Monroe through the eyes of the young English aristocrat, who was working on a film set for the first time.

In the film, Clark comes upon the superstar in the bath tub. No one, especially not Clark, expected to get that close to Monroe. But during filming, Monroe befriended Clark and he became a confidante. For Clark, Monroe was his first love.

Marilyn Monroe arrives in London, with husband Arthur Miller, to film "The Prince and the Showgirl" in 1956.
Marilyn Monroe arrives in London, with husband Arthur Miller, to film "The Prince and the Showgirl" in 1956.

In the film, Monroe is a fragile and troubled sex symbol. Her stardom and new marriage, to playwright Arthur Miller, do little to ease her loneliness and insecurity.

Michelle Williams interprets the superstar’s volatility with verve and sensitivity. The film’s excellent editing enhances Williams’ portrayal of Monroe.

“I hope that it adds, that it fills out the impression of Marilyn Monroe," Williams says, "and that she is allowed, through me or through her own presence, to expand and that there are certain things you may not have realized about her - her wit, her empathy, her deep desire to be taken seriously as an artist.”

According to Clark's book, the superstar hoped to gain respect by playing alongside Olivier in "The Prince and the Showgirl." But the rapport between the effervescent Monroe and the highbrow Olivier was difficult.

Michelle Williams shines as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn."
Michelle Williams shines as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week with Marilyn."

During filming, their relationship broke down and the movie flopped. In "My Week with Marilyn," actor Kenneth Branagh's Sir Lawrence is stodgy, impatient and judgmental.

“By the time he meets Marilyn Monroe, he is the revered and respected Sir Laurence Olivier. And that’s his problem," Branagh says. "He wants to be youthful, edgy, cutting. He wants Marilyn to renew him and it’s a very tough task. And what he imagines and what happens are two very different things.”

As the relationship deteriorates, Clark, played by Eddie Redmayne, comes to Monroe’s rescue. Their romance is the story’s central theme. But through it, we also watch Monroe’s failing third marriage, her depression, her dependence on sedatives and her slide into self-destruction.

“You can quit this. Forget Hollywood. Forget Marilyn Monroe,” Clark tells Monroe in a scene from "My Week with Marilyn."

The film shows she couldn't. Her fame nourished her as much as it devoured her.  

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