Star rating – 8/10
Michelle Williams confirms her status as top American actress in this light, but nonetheless fabulous, film about a week in the life of Marilyn Munroe. To be precise it is the time during 1956 when Munroe came to England to make the ill-fated ‘The Prince and the Show Girl’ with none other than Laurence Olivier.
It was a very unhappy time for the actress, admittedly in a tragic lifetime of general unhappiness, as she had weeks before married the celebrated intellectual and playwright Arthur Miller, only to discover by reading his musings that he felt he had made a big mistake in marrying her. It is unlikely that anyone could have filled the hole of sadness and insecurity inside her that she needed them to. And Williams captures her essence and frail beauty quite brilliantly.
But the limelight is stolen completely here by the wonderful Kenneth Branagh as Olivier. The actor reportedly got increasingly exasperated with the Marilyn’s lateness on set, and inability to remember her lines through her pill-fuelled haze when she did arrive. Their equal but profoundly different need to be adored was a recipe for disaster. Branagh is simply superb as the actor to whom he has been favourably compared throughout his own career. He is also outrageously funny. It is hard to imagine that the script was actually written to be as funny as it is – I am sure that he simply delighted in making it so. He comes out with classic lines such as ‘it would be easier to teach Urdu to a badger’!
Marilyn found the fractious relationship with Oliver so distressing that she sought solace in the company of young Colin Clark. He was the third assistant director – aka gofer – on the film owing to favourable family connections, and was just happy to be amongst film people. When Munroe increasingly sought his company and protection he was only too happy to oblige.
The film is beautifully shot and features Pinewood Studios, where the action actually took place, and the house that Marilyn stays at in the film is also actually the same house that the real Munroe occupied during the shoot – nice touches that add to the authentic period feel. Above all, it showcases Branagh as a continuing tour de force, and a statuesque actor who must surely now be considered on an equal footing with Sir Larry himself.