Michelle Williams deftly brings Marilyn to life

With the severe lack of new releases the weekend after Thanksgiving — movie studios must think everyone is stuffed and no one goes to movies for a week — I decided to review a film that opened in limited release shortly before Thanksgiving, one that will certainly be a subject of conversation as we inch closer to awards season.

If you haven’t already heard the name Michelle Williams and Oscar in the same sentence, surely you will in the next few months. It’s her most high-profile role yet, playing the iconic Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn.

Williams has come a long way from her Dawson’s Creek days, having had memorable roles in small indie movies like Blue Valentine, Wendy and Lucy and Brokeback Mountain. She’s already been nominated for an Oscar twice, but 2012 just might be the year she wins.

Physically, she doesn’t exactly look the part of the well-known blonde bombshell — I kept seeing Michelle instead of Marilyn, but it’s forgivable since the quality of Williams’ performance is above par.

The story behind My Week With Marilyn isn’t the greatest, or even the most interesting, but the movie is most worth seeing for Williams’ portrayal of Monroe. Williams manages to pull off tragic, tender, vulnerable, sexy, funny and flirty — all the characteristics that made Marilyn Monroe a Hollywood legend. Her voice and mannerisms seemed to be on-point, as well.

My Week With Marilyn is the story of Monroe’s friendly flirtatious, but ultimately platonic, relationship with Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), who worked for Sir Laurence Olivier and was the third assistant director for the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl. Since it is based on Clark’s published diary accounts, the story is told from Colin’s point of view. Unfortunately, Redmayne is mostly bland and forgettable when paired Williams.

The authenticity of Colin’s experiences has been questioned by many, and I wondered how much of it was true and how much was imagined. Ms. Monroe was long gone by the 1990s when the diary accounts were published, and Colin himself passed away in 2002. Anyhow, I didn’t necessarily take the movie as pure fact, but more as historical entertainment.

My Week With Marilyn is notable in that it’s not her life story, but only takes place over a short seven days. She’s married to Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott). She’s a total diva on the set in London (shows up late, insists on having her acting coach always on hand). Oh, and she has a pill for just about every malady known to man. Her relationship with The Prince and the Showgirl co-star Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) is tenuous, at best.

Director Simon Curtis (a British TV director in his first film) takes great care in portraying a delicate Monroe who shuffles between fragile Norma Jean and sexy Marilyn when the moment calls for it.

Monroe died just six years after the release of The Prince and the Showgirl, but as this movie shows, she will never be forgotten. Williams’ portrayal of Monroe won’t soon be forgotten either. ••

Movie Grade: B+