My Week with Marilyn (2011)

I wonder just how much of hottie Marilyn Monroe would be in today’s world.

Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier’s ( Kenneth Branagh), documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during production of The Prince and the Showgirl, as well as his several meetings with her.

Marilyn Monroe has and forever will be an American icon but the weirdest thing is that there has still never even been a film based on her yet. Probably because nobody can play her, except for Monroe herself, and I hate to say it but that is still true even after seeing this flick.

First-time director Simon Curtis does a good job here of creating a very funny and light mood in the beginning of the flick with plenty of detail towards the whole film-making of the 1957 film ‘The Prince and the Showgirl‘. We get to see all of the work that it takes to be made for a film to work and how every single person working back-stage doesn’t really get along with each other, even when they are off-screen.

The problem that Curtis runs into with this film is the fact that it is just way too much of the soapy melodrama that I’ve probably seen used better in made-for-TV movies on Lifetime or Hallmark. The emotional depth that this film tries to carry is way off considering that we are given so many opportunities to actually care about these characters, but it all feels too fake with moments that seem like they came right out of some teenage boys journal from the 1950’s who had a dream the night before about his long, lost adventures with the chick who he would worship. I couldn’t really take anything in that this film was trying to sell me into consideration and even though it’s adapted from a real-life memoir, I still have to call some bull-shit on that.

Another huge problem that this film runs into is the fact that Monroe is depicted in this film in two ways: either she’s charming and posing for the cameras or sad and needy as hell. There isn’t really much that this film has to say that we haven’t already known about Monroe’s life before because we know she was on drugs, we know she used men, we know she was a little sex-pot, and we know that she was a very sad character beneath all of the smiles, but this film tries to act like that is all new information to us and by about the 5th time she showed up late to work because she was crying in bed over something random, I just wanted to punch her in the face. The tortured and sad celebrity isn’t anything new and any other glimpse at Monroe would have been perfectly fine with me.

Despite this huge problem though, Michelle Williams still does a great job and saves this film from being total shit. Williams nails just about ever part of Monroe to the light-voice, to the little twinkle in her, and even to the little flirtatiousness she always had. We also get to see a lot of these sad moments with Williams getting down just the right amount of realness to a performance that seemed like it could have easily been just another extended impersonation. She shines in basically every frame of the film but even the scenes where she gets to recreate certain songs or scenes, is where her talent really shows and I think they did a perfect job of putting Williams in this lead role even if it’s a really hard one at that.

Eddie Redmayne tries his hardest here in a role that’s very mature from him but the kid doesn’t really have any re-deeming qualities to him that makes me believe that she could just want to drop all of the things she has to do for him. He’s shy, bright-eyed, a little creepy, and very boring and I think that deep-down inside there is a good performance from Redmayne, I just couldn’t find it beneath this terribly shallow character.

On the bright side though, everybody else is fairly good. Kenneth Branagh is perfect as Sir Laurence Olivier because he shows how much temperamental and desperate a film-maker could be, but also reminds us as to why Olivier was such a brilliant actor in the first place; Judi Dench is great in her role as Dame Sybil Thorndike, even if it does seem familiar; and Julia Ormond shows some great moments as Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh. There’s a real big cast to this whole film but it’s just such a shame that the script sort of lets them all down.

Consensus: When it comes to playing Monroe and Olivier, Williams and Branagh got it, but My Week with Marilyn feels very contrived with a lot of repetition to the point of where it almost feels like a lot of what we see here is almost too made up to actually be true even though it’s based on a memoir.



  1. I liked the film more than you did since I see it as not just about a brief period in the life of Marilyn Monroe but a changing of the guard of what was happening in the world of acting. The days of the theatrical-based acting style that Olivier was known for was on its way out with a more method-approach that Monroe was a part of.

    It’s not a perfect film but I enjoyed it. I had a good time although I wished it had more Judi Dench. She was fun to watch while it was Michelle Williams who really made the film for me. She nailed the Marilyn character in such a big way even though she doesn’t have the actual figure of Monroe but was able to do all of the moves and such.

    • I thought it was an OK flick but to be honest, there wasn’t anything really that spectacular about it other than William’s performance. Thanks Steve!

  2. Yeah, I have been seeing a lot of average review for this. In fact one of our writers though very similar to you Dan when he reviewed it a while back.

    Great job matey and Happy New Year

  3. I liked the film a lot as it really did show the class differences of the time incredibly well. I found it very real and moving. Maybe it’s a good thing that young people today have a more relaxed world and really cannot imagine how contrived and controlled life was, in my memory.

  4. I think you’re exactly right when you say there isn’t much emotional depth in the film. It felt like the main storyline about the relationship between Monroe and Clark was a bit lacking in substance. The best parts for me were Kenneth Brannagh, which says something about the film! Great review, glad you felt similarly to me about it.

  5. Wow. a 5 huh? I was thinking about seeing it (just released in my city) but I may wait now. I’m a big big fan of Branagh’s work so I am glad (and not surprised) to hear he did amazingly well.

    Biopics often are hit and miss with me. Loved The King’s Speech and 127 Hours, but wasn’t a big fan of Ali or The Aviator.

    Great review as always!

  6. Excellent review, Dan. I think the greatest weakness of the film is the source material. As I noted in my review, a memoir is one view of the truth, and so is subjective. Yet the movie tells everything from Colin’s limited perspective. You can’t have a full vision of Marilyn only looking through two eyes. The director did do a good job giving us the feeling for a film set, which I enjoyed. I agree with you about the acting – it’s the best part of the movie.

  7. Hi there,

    Thanks so much for reading my review. Just read yours and our opinions differ a lot although, I have to say, I won’t be buying this one or watching it again. Maybe I liked it better because I’d read one of the two journals it was based on?

    Anyway, thanks for the review and thanks for commenting on mine.


  8. This is one I have not seen yet– seems the overall opinion is that this film is strong in performances only ( as you noted as well) –will have to check it before the oscars. Nice review– enjoying your blog!

  9. I found this film far more entertaining. I agree that the cast was very strong, that Williams was SPECTACULAR, and that Redmayne was invisible by comparison. While I agree that there seemed to be a melodrama to the film, I differ in my reaction to it. I actually believe that the supposed Monroe duplicity, the contrasting personalities, and the drama she seemed to feed on, are important elements of the star, showing just how much of a supernova she was, destined to shine so bright that it could not be sustainable. Overall, I found the film mesmerizing, if largely because Williams was. Nice review1 Let me know your thoughts on mine!

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