Celebrities and the Hollywood lifestyle are often glamorized, as people feel the public’s admiration will make them happy and leave them fulfilled. But rarely does anyone become interested in the private, unguarded lives of the larger-than-life personalities. The new drama My Week with Marilyn, which was helmed by British television and theater director Simon Curtis, successfully proves that even admired icons as Marilyn Monroe can be plagued by personal insecurities. The movie also shows that these vulnerabilities can be healed if someone expresses a genuine interest in helping the person, not the celebrity.
My Week With Marilyn follows the title character (Michelle Williams), as she travels to England for the first time to film The Prince and the Showgirl, the first movie she’s both starring in and producing. Marilyn arrives in London with her new husband, famed American playwright Arthur Miller, to shoot the film with Sir Laurence Olivier, who is directing and co-starring in the movie. While on set, Marilyn meets 23-year-old Colin Clark, who’s working as the third assistant director on the film.
Having just graduated from Oxford and not wanting to depend on his family for financial help, Colin persists on taking any production job, as long as he can work on the set. While Colin wants to make a name for himself in the film industry, he quickly becomes infatuated with Marilyn. Colin is determined to help Marilyn succeed in her acting, after seeing she has professional and personal insecurities, despite being the most famous woman in the world. For a week on the set, Colin becomes the actress’ close confidant, despite Laurence’s increasing annoyance with her work ethic and everyone’s warning that she’ll only break his heart.
Curtis has said he couldn’t believe when he was given the rights to adapt Clark’s memoir of the same name, which chronicles his true experiences with Monroe on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. He added that at least three established filmmakers told him they were vying for the film rights to tell Clark’s intimate journey with Monroe. But the director and producer proved his talent as a filmmaker and deserved to tell her story by creating a unique, rare insight into the true feelings of one of the world’s most iconic stars. While social media today allows the public unlimited access to their favorite celebrities, during Monroe’s fame, her privacy was much better protected; but Curtis’ insight into the actress’ life through Clark’s story gives audiences a much more thorough, emotional account of her life.
My Week With Marilyn offers a realistic insight the lack of communication between Monroe and her colleagues, which was not only brought on by her public battle with prescription drugs and alcohol, but also her private fear of abandonment. While she was only 30 when she married Miller, she’d already been married twice before, and as a result, felt that people didn’t want to get to know, much less like, her for her personality. This becomes one of the most important and memorable themes of the film, along with Monroe contending with people only admiring her for her looks and not taking her seriously as an actress. While only meeting Clark on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl and spending such a short amount of time with him, she came to realize that there were people who could look past her fame and appreciate her as a person.
Curtis made an excellent choice in casting Williams to portray the infamous sex symbol in the drama. The two-time Academy Award-nominated actress was at first apprehensive at playing such an iconic role, as she would essentially be playing three characters: Marilyn Monroe, the international movie star; the insecure woman, born Norma Jeane Baker, who feared fame and the spotlight; and the title showgirl in Olivier’s film. However, Williams, who was always interested in Monroe’s private life and a fan of her work, easily took on all three personas. Her tireless research into Monroe’s life and films allowed her to emotionally connect with all aspects of her character, and prove to Colin that her fear of being left alone, unloved, had merit.
While Olivier is continuously questioning why he hired the difficult actress, and warning Colin not to become to attached to Marilyn, the third assistant director’s conflicting emotional maturity and youthful innocence drove him to pursue her. While he didn’t have much time to spend with her on the set, his selflessness and caring and genuine nature drove him to become protective of her. Redmayne was an admirable casting choice as Colin, as he brought Clark’s naivety and charm to the story. He also formed a realistic, intimate bond with Williams that mirrored the innocent relationship the filmmaker and writer shared with Monroe. Redmayne understood that Clark’s sensitivity as an observer drove him to detect Monroe’s feeling of isolation and despair on the busy set that was filled with people who admired her.
Screenwriter Adrian Hodges, who scripted My Week with Marilyn, gracefully and realistically focused on Monroe’s insecurities to drive the film, particularly in explaining why she instantly connected with the sensitive and caring Clark. Unfortunately, he failed to include any information about why Monroe was vulnerable, besides the fact that she had been married three times. While the film is about the window of time she was working on The Prince and the Showgirl and formed her relationship with Clark, viewers are left wanting to truly know why Monroe didn’t trust anyone.
Williams was the perfect choice to portray the true, insecure nature of Monroe as she continuously struggled to find the reassurance that people loved her for her personality, and not her celebrity status. Already being a fan of the actress allowed Williams to show that there was more to Monroe’s personality than the public realized. While unfortunately failing to fully explain why Monroe continuously felt insecure, My Week with Marilyn genuinely humanized the sex symbol, and proved that she more easily related to her fans than her Hollywood colleagues.