‘My Week with Marilyn" is a film that never would have worked without the right actress in the title role. As strong as the script, direction and supporting ensemble might be, the true success of the film lies in the hands of Michelle Williams' performance. Portraying a screen legend like Marilyn Monroe is a heavy task for any actress, even a two-time Oscar nominee. Yet, Williams proves to be more than up to the challenge, flawlessly capturing the playfulness and tragedy of this American icon.
The film is based on two diary accounts by Colin Clark, played by English actor Eddie Redmayne. Colin is determined to break into the movies and manages to land a job as the third assistant director in a film called, "The Prince and the Showgirl." The film stars and is directed by the frustrated Sir Laurence Olivier, played by Kenneth Branagh in a very funny performance. Oliver's co-star is Monroe, who was the most beautiful and famous actress in world at the time. Only a few years later, however, she would allegedly commit suicide due to a drug overdose.
Monroe appeared so cheerful and graceful in movies and in interviews that few people at the time would have suspected just how emotionally damaged she was. Williams is brilliant as Monroe, depicting her as a woman who could be full of life one minute and wallowing in insecurity the next. While Monroe was very fragile and overwhelmed by her fame, she was also bent on achieving greatness and getting a scene just right. The only way to relive her of that hidden pain was through a combination of drugs and alcohol. Although her death was premature, Monroe achieved more in her short lifetime than most performers could ever dream. In a sense she is reminiscent of Williams' former partner, the late Heath Ledger, which only makes the performance more genuine.
Williams may not have the same exact figure as the real Marilyn, with wide hips and curves. That's virtually irrelevant though. Williams deserves the highest praise for personifying the emotional turmoil and spirit of Monroe in this role of a lifetime. In addition to capturing her mannerisms and speech, Williams creates a Monroe of her own that stands out from any other portrayals. She is not merely impersonating Marilyn Monroe. She fully embodies her.
Also good here is Redmayne as Colin, who becomes a close friend to Marilyn on the set. Where everyone else is either yelling directions at Marilyn or coddling her, Colin acts as the one person who seems to actually have a connection with her. Throughout their brief period together, Colin sees Marilyn at her best and at her worst. In the process he can't help but fall completely in love with her.
The film's ending may be a little too optimistic, sugarcoating the fact that Monroe's inner demons eventually caught up with her. Nevertheless, "My Week with Marilyn" is still truly a wonderful film featuring one of the year's absolute best performances. For years, we've all wished to see Monroe on the silver screen once more. This is the closest we will ever get.