Some like it hot, and some like it with a little more oomph. “My Week With Marilyn,” an Oscar shoo-in for the ever-fabulous Michelle Williams, is remarkably made to appeal to whatever Marilyn you adore.
This Marilyn, shooting a feature by Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh, hilariously cutthroat), is a hot mess of insecurity and codependency, with her omnipresent acting coach always hanging in the wings and a man at her side for confidence boosts.
The pressure for Norma Jean Baker to be Marilyn Monroe was sabotaging her from the inside out, and she was cracking. During the particular time captured in “My Week With Marilyn” – in 1956 while shooting the Olivier film in England – Monroe was seemingly flubbing lines so often on set that Olivier’s intense scrutiny crippled her spirit and drove her into the arms of big-dreaming boy Colin Clark (a charming Eddie Redmayne), the third assistant director on the film.
He pushes her to perfection, and she – using her flirtiness most inventively – seduces him every which way she can: skinny dipping in a lake and scheming him into “accidentally” seeing her fresh out of the shower. Undeniably, there’s a loveliness forged within their give-and-take rendezvous, but is it enough to sustain Monroe’s aplomb so she can finish this movie? Enough for him to not feel used?
“My Week With Marilyn” is more than an insightfully candid and often funny-by-way-of-awkwardness portrait of one of the most famous women ever; it’s an allegory on fame – the power, the pressure and how both can destroy a human soul. Monroe, as we know and as depicted in director Simon Curtis’ film, finds refuge in drugs and alcohol. That pain was hidden securely behind a wink and a smile. Williams captures that so ingeniously that not for one second do you believe that you’re not actually seeing Marilyn Monroe onscreen in all those iconic moments: the toes-in-the-air tub scene and flashy song-and-dance numbers, for instance.
The actress walks a mile in Marilyn’s heels for an hour-and-a-half, embodying every aspect of Monroe: the floozy, the diva, the codependent. Marilyn, in Williams’ handle, isn’t just a sex kitten; she’s empathetic and real, sensitive and sweet. The resemblance is uncanny as she recreates the life of a legend that so few of us actually ever knew.