Recent university graduate/film lover Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) gets his first big break in showbiz as an assistant director on 1957’s The Prince and the Showgirl, a light romantic comedy from director/star Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Over the course of the titular week, young Colin is exposed to a myriad of movie making tropes: the controlling manager, the overbearing acting coach, the frustrated old-timer, the tortured icon. It doesn’t take long for him to fall in love with Marilyn, an experience that the real life Colin turned into two memoirs that serve as the basis for this film, the most basic biopic/coming of age story that can be imagined.
There is nothing of interest to be found in the behind-the-scenes mechanics of the film-within-a-film’s production nor in the subplot regarding Clark’s failed relationship with costume girl Lucy (Harry Potter‘s Emma Stone) as these and other throwaway detours are really just a means of framing the story of Marilyn’s failing stability just five years prior to her death at age 36. She is portrayed as the gracious, flirtatious, but ultimately troubled starlet that any Hollywood tour guide would expound upon in great detail to visiting tourists. She’s a tourist herself in the film, a nervous actress in a strange land ruled by a queen who wonders what it would be like to be the most famous woman in the world. Williams ably does the icon justice as she conveys the duplicitous nature of celebrity with the flick of a switch. She seems genuinely appreciative of Colin’s admiration and surprisingly vulnerable in his presence, but their skinny dipping and sightseeing come across as trite, montage-worthy moments in the oblivious young man’s aforementioned transition to adulthood. While there are some additional performances of note (the always impressive Dominic Cooper as Marilyn’s manager, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller), My Week with Marilyn is ultimately memorable only for its star’s performance, which itself will likely be forgotten post-awards season.
My Week with Marilyn opens today at the Ritz Five.