Perhaps one week with Marilyn Monroe just wasn’t enough time. Director Simon Curtis’ first foray into feature films surrounds itself in brilliant performances and whimsical humor, but even the most emotional and poignant encounters don’t offer the lasting impact of an immersive connection. The young man who accompanies Marilyn becomes immediately smitten with the star but has only a few fleeting days for romance. He believes he fully understands the blonde beauty, and perhaps he does, but the brevity of their relationship leaves a bittersweet feeling of insufficiency to their playful liaison. Additional time with the enigmatic goddess might not have resulted in a more complex affair, but it couldn’t have hurt.
Ambitious young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) will stop at nothing to be part of the movie business. His tenacity lands him a job as an assistant on Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) current film production of “The Sleeping Prince” (The Prince and the Showgirl) and there he meets Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Immediately mesmerized by the voluptuous beauty, Clark becomes a mediator of sorts between the turbulent star and the demanding director. As Marilyn’s erratic behavior and surmounting insecurities begin to threaten the production, Colin determines to understand the troubled girl; inevitably, he falls in love with the iconic actress.
Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh contribute superlative performances, but it’s difficult not to see pieces of the two of them emerge from their roles. Perhaps they’re each too recognizable or famous. Williams echoes Marilyn some of the time, chiefly with her walk and talk, but mostly she just resembles someone trying to look like the blonde superstar. Branagh sounds genuine, but physically convinces only sporadically. Surely those more familiar with Monroe and Olivier’s nuances, especially off screen, will appreciate their interpretations. Others will find the dissimilarities distracting. The oddest inclusion is Emma Watson in a minor role – one of the few actresses out there that can’t shake her alter ego from her previous, immensely popular portrayal, which adds to the diversion.
The tone is lighthearted and the conflicts are minimal. The film nicely mixes romance, comedy and drama, and the lead character is a sympathetic, believable underdog. Ultimately, however, the events in the film are merely pleasant, not profound. It’s a film about performances, not story. Marilyn is shown to be an airheaded, unprofessional, irresponsible, whimsical twit, who can’t handle serious acting but definitely has a grasp of the manipulative powers of her sexuality. Despite always being on the verge of tears or nearly catatonic from drugs, she still manages to tease and influence those around her with the infectious qualities that confirm her status as an unobtainable goddess. Personal acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker) couldn’t have been more wrong when she insisted, “you have no idea of your position in the world,” to the insecure Marilyn. More interesting than any of the happenings in the movie would be the percentage of fact vs. fiction. Most of the accounts from Clark’s diary could have easily been embellished, yet the theatrics and surprises are at a yawn-worthy minimum.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)