Beauty – Signed and Sealed!

[Rating: 3.5]

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Emma Watson, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper , Julia Ormond, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Richard Clifford, Zoe Wanamaker

Synopsis: In the early summer of 1956, 23 year-old Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), just down from Oxford and determined to make his way in the film business, worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. The film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), who was also on honeymoon with her new husband, the playwright Arther Miller (Dougray Scott). 
Nearly 40 years on, his diary account The Prince, the Showgirl and Me was published, but one week was missing and this was published some years later as My Week with Marilyn – this is the story of that week. When Arthur Miller leaves England, the coast is clear for Colin to introduce Marilyn to some of the pleasures of British life, an idyllic week in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from her retinue of Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work.

Review: Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jean Baker),  the name that brought the picture of the diva right into your head as easily it would spark a controversy, lived a rather glamorous life and did some great work as an actress during the years she lived albeit one-of-a-kind, something many female actresses of her genre would not have been comfortable with. Let’s admit it, Marilyn Monroe epitomised feminine beauty in a way no one ever had and while over the years, she has had competition of the many actresses that have come and gone, her identity still remains unblemished.

We have also seen various accounts where she has been quoted, mentioned, praised and compared. One can only try to do a “Marilyn”, but never replace her. The earliest articles published about Monroe speak to us about the very humble background she came from and how she rose to the pedestal she was at. Over the years we have seen actresses like Catherine Hicks, Melody Andersdon, Scarlett Johansson (allegedly rechristened the modern-day Marilyn Monroe), Paris Hilton, Angelina Jolie and now Michelle Williams playing a Marilyn Monroe, might I say, impersonating a diva is a daunting task.

“My Week With Marilyn” is a 9-day account of the incidents from the sets of “The Prince and the Showgirl” that released in 1957 starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. The story was based on the play “The Sleeping Prince”. It was rumoured that the making of the film gave way to a romance between Sir Olivier and Miss Monroe (then, recently married to her third husband, Arthur Miller, a playwright by profession). But the highlight was her ‘affair’ with a much younger guy on the set, Colin Clark who secretly maintained a diary about the encounter and later published it as “The Prince, the Showgirl and Me”. Michelle Williams does a good job playing the blonde bombshell of all time. However, there was a disconnect at some places like the very look of the diva, did not look half as convincing mostly because we have a picture of the real Miss Monroe in our minds, how we have known her from her celluloid presence and public appearances. Also, out of the many articles that speak about her affairs and her life in general which was lined by immense insecurity, there is always a mention of how the diva passed away so young i.e. just 6 years after the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl”.

All other actors namely Judi Dench playing Dame Sybil Thorndike, Kenneth Branagh playing Sir Laurence Olivier, Eddie Redmayne playing Colin Clark amongst others have done a fantastic job, but all accolades have and shall go to Michelle Williams for doing a Marilyn. After all, it isn’t easy to portray a legend on screen. The style, the smile, the humour – almost there. Emma Watson plays a small and easily forgettable role as Lucy especially since we have been so accustomed to watching her on screen in a meaty role as Hermione Granger throughout these years. Nonetheless, the cast and crew (Director – Simon Curtis and others) did their homework well, the only loophole was how few instances did not seem real. If there was a alleged romance between Sir Olivier and Miss Monroe, why did we only see the former always seething with rage when the latter was around on the set. Apparently, Sir Laurence Olivier had a notion about her being a dumb blonde who had only done "showgirl" type roles so far. Paradoxically, both parties had their share of insecurities and spoke about them to the one person who was inevitably around – Colin Clark. And boy, did she break hearts? Well, she was a beautiful woman, many hearts may have been crushed, yet again, why did no one feel sad here? 

This is just an innocent observation, for there are various things one notices despite having kept all prejudices apart. This film solely belongs to Michelle Williams, and kudos to her for her performance as the troubled star. We also hear that next in line is Naomi Watts portraying Marilyn Monroe. As long as any of these performances do not make Norma Jean Baker turn in her grave, we shall keep an open mind to accept the portrayals of the lady.

Verdict: It’s a semi biopic so you may want to read up on the real life incident as accounted before watching Michelle Williams Monroe on the big screen.

Saumya Sharma

*For a first person account as published in a UK-based publication, see below:
In the summer of 1956 I worked on the set of a film starring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. I had just finished university and was only there because my parents were friends of Olivier and his then wife, Vivien Leigh.
Filming on The Prince and the Showgirl went badly from the beginning. Olivier, the best-known classical actor of his generation, patronised Monroe – who before then had played only strippers and chorus girls – and treated her like a dumb blonde. Monroe’s new husband, the playwright Arthur Miller, dealt with her like a difficult child, and Milton Greene (her business partner in Marilyn Monroe Productions) was desperate to retain control of ‘his’ star by giving her prescription drugs. But Monroe was determined to prove that she could act. [Courtesy: The Daily Mail, UK] 

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  1. mrs.hulkstress

    March 11, 2012 at 2:44 am

    I am so excited to see this movie, based off your review I am so excited to get off work from DISH and go watch it. I have it waiting for me at home. It arrived in the mail yesterday which was pretty quick since I am using Blockbuster @Home. I love Marilyn, she was so beautiful. No one really knew the real her and I bet that’s all she wanted.

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    June 8, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I am very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

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