Only one word can describe Michelle Williams’ performance in the new film, “My Week with Marilyn” – intoxicating.
Williams imbues her character with class, sexuality and self-doubt, making her one of the front-runners for the best actress Oscar next year. She’s the focal point of this biopic and owns every scene she’s in. The screenplay, though, is strong enough to build a story around her mesmerizing performance.
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The film revolves around Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a young man interested in the film business. Clark is so eager to be involved in the industry that he spends days camped out at the office of the famous actor/director Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Clark – the persistent and wide-eyed youngster – eventually gets his big break and is offered the job as an assistant director for the upcoming film, “The Prince and the Showgirl.”
Monroe, who is acting alongside Olivier in the film, arrives on set and Clark quickly becomes smitten with the seductive actress. Her fragility and self-consciousness only lure people closer to her. Despite her fame and overt sexuality, she longs for people’s approval and people, including her overwhelmed personal assistant, are happy to give it to her.
Monroe is such a fine actress that nobody wants her own insecurities to stand in her way. As one character notes, “When Marilyn gets it right, you just don’t want to look at anyone else.” So people comfort Monroe like an up and coming starlet, hoping and praying that she’ll have the confidence to be the actress they know she can be.
And Williams is at her best portraying the awe-inspiring star.
Although some might have reservations about casting the former “Dawson’s Creek” actress as Monroe, it’s hard for viewers to hold onto those doubts when Williams appears onscreen. She embodies the role. Monroe was a woman who many men fell in love with onscreen. I didn’t grow up in that generation. But I was immediately attracted to Williams’ portrayal of her. With the tenderness of a young girl and the charisma of a seductive flirt, Williams shows the many different sides of the well-known actress. When her husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) says “She’s devouring me,” audiences everywhere can understand the feeling.
Williams’ Monroe is a woman whose personality and popularity can consume you. But for Clark, being engulfed in her charismatic web is a thrill, not a turnoff.
The supporting cast is well-rounded and helps show the different reactions to the movie star. Olivier is the consummate professional director, calling attention to Monroe every time she arrives on the set hours late. On the other hand, Dame Sybil Thorndike (played by an impressive Judi Dench) is a fellow actress who supports Monroe despite her obvious flaws. Then, there’s Lucy (Emma Watson), who starts dating Clark only to realize that he can’t stop staring at Monroe. Lucy is, in many ways, a stand in for the audience. She never comes too close to Monroe and is forced to stand on the sidelines and simply observe the power of the woman that everyone is talking about.
In the movie, that woman is Marilyn Monroe. Come awards season, though, the woman who everyone will be talking about is Williams.