It’s a fantastic blend of skill and fate, when an actor is able to embody a well-known character completely. Two faces, decades apart – completely different yet in so many ways the same.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Elvis Presley; Jamie Foxx and Ray Charles; Joaquin Phoenix and Johnny Cash – and now Michelle Williams and Marilyn Monroe.
In My week with Marilyn, Williams provides an eerily exact projection of Monroe – not only in face, but also in body, in voice, and in countenance.
In the opening scene, Williams is stunning – a sparkling diamond, offset by a sea of black. Although this film is brimming with magnificent performances, it is Williams that shines throughout, just as Monroe herself would have done.
She leans forward when she speaks, to accentuate her curves as well to entice her audience. Her voice flows, with a familiar velvety breathiness. Her lips forever puckered, despite a constant show of smiling teeth. Williams paints Monroe exactly right: a picture of imperfect perfection.
Kenneth Branagh is scathing as “Larry” Olivier, who is concurrently critical and enchanted by Monroe: “Teaching Marilyn to act is like teaching Urdu to a Badger!”
In response, Williams reveals Monroe’s timid fragility, her exasperated fears and insecurities.
The film is set in the summer of 1956, when Marilyn arrives on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl in England. It is six years before her death in 1962, and yet it provides a clear insight into the demons that led to her demise. When Monroe retreats within herself, into a haze of depression, it is her eyes that show it most – vivid blue and blindingly vacant.
Tribute must also be paid to rest of the exemplary supporting cast, including Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench and Emma Watson – who have done incredibly well not to be outshined completely.
My week with Marilyn is a love story for a long lost star. Although it is told through the eyes of Colin Clark, it is seen as if through everyone’s.
Michelle Williams for the Oscar!
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What’s coming next? A review of The Help