In the summer of 1956, the young Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) became a third assistant director to Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) who was acting in and directing The Prince and the Showgirl. However, Olivier was not the main attraction. The film was to star Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) who along with her playwright husband (Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller) and acting instructor (Zoe Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg), she arrives on the set like a fish out of water.
As the films put it, she is a star who wants to be an actor while Olivier is an actor who wants to be a star. The feuding between Olivier and Strasberg often leads to Monroe retiring to her dressing room where Colin is often sent to fetch her. Colin and Marilyn soon began an "affair." I use quotations because aside from some kisses, it is only explicitly shown that the two have a deep trust for each other.
Like parts of the last film I saw (Scorsese's Hugo), certain moments feel too outrageous. The movie starts with a montage that is basically, "I'm Colin Clark and for one summer my life changed...". In a wierd way, the approach that director Simon Curtis takes to tell the story, did start to wash over me after a while. I ignored the wishy-washy nature of Colin because this is a movie about fantasy and reality (another theme I felt was prevalent in Hugo).
Williams is fantastic and I rarely have anything bad to say about her in most of her work. She captures a woman (Marilyn) who is playing a character ("Marilyn") who is playing a character (the showgirl). She shows Monroe's never-ending travel along the emotional spectrum from sad and insecure to vulnerable and sweet. Branagh is also great. I mean, he has a lot of experience being an actor, director, and a lover of all things Shakespeare so seeing him as Olivier was a great treat. The rest of the cast also includes Dominic Cooper, Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Julia Ormond, and Derek Jacobi.
The only other issue I have with the movie is the point of view. It is called MY Week with Marilyn. So although she is a main character, the audience sees the world through Colin's eyes. Redmayne does a good job, but the script as well as Williams' performance certainly makes the Monroe character far more interesting. We truly don't care what happens to Colin, we want to see what will happen to Marilyn.
Despite these misgivings about the tone of the story, the performances are so enjoyable and are far from mimicry. They might start out that way, but by the end of the story, like Colin, they enter a world of intense understanding about putting on a show that will ultimately pretend to be real in a world of artificiality.