Could this be 2011's The King's Speech? Certainly its co-producer and distributor Harvey Weinstein is banking on it, since My Week with Marilyn bears all the hallmarks of the mainstream prestige pictures Mr. Weinstein's Miramax Pictures made its fortunes on. A little-known true-life episode involving well-known figures, the impeccable professionalism of British period recreation, an all-star cast - all ingredients are present and correct, making for the sort of film that not only delights mainstream filmgoers but also charms Academy Award voters. And, to be honest, they could do much worse than fall for this entertaining but utterly harmless film that marries the coming-of-age tale of 20-something Colin Clark while being a glorified gofer on the 1956 set of The Prince and the Showgirl. A stage hit for Vivien Leigh that director and husband Laurence Olivier convinced Marilyn Monroe to star in opposite him, it resulted in a chaotic shoot during which the stars did not get along at all and a film that has been all but forgotten by film history.

     Adapting Mr. Clark's memoirs, the debut feature of television director Simon Curtis is a perceptive look both at the daily, very unglamorous chores of a film shoot and at what it meant to come of age in 1950s Britain on the cusp of the rock'n'roll revolution. Essentially, My Week with Marilyn takes the shape of a fairytale where the young hero finds himself in the arms of a goddess, perfectly aware of her failings but still wanting to believe there can be a happy-ever-after ending. In doing so, however, Mr. Curtis and screenwriter Adrian Hodges remain within the safe confines of Ms. Monroe as a myth rather than as a person, since the story isn't really about her but about Colin's learning experience on the set, as a person and a filmmaker. Michelle Williams is engagingly fragile and vulnerable as Marilyn, capturing both her sexpot and her private personas, but the film is never really interested in her as a person, merely as a mythical figure; a breath of fresh air in post-war England, represented here by the backstabbing, self-appointed "guardians of tradition" in cast and crew.

     It is in that aspect that My Week with Marilyn is of interest - as a snapshot of a period in English history seen through the lens of a film shoot, rather than as the rather predictable tale of a young man's infatuation with a film star. The cast is universally excellent, with a magisterial Kenneth Branagh as Mr. Olivier (reminding us how good an actor he can be when he just focuses on acting) and regal turns by Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi and Michael Kitchen, with Eddie Redmayne wonderfully appealing as Mr. Clark. But it all never rises above the level of above-average British prestige drama, impeccably done and quite entertaining, but hardly more than that. And, in that respect, it is 2011's The King's Speech.

Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne; Dominic Cooper, Philip Jackson, Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones, Michael Kitchen, Julia Ormond, Simon Russell Beale, Dougray Scott, Zoë Wanamaker; Emma Watson; Judi Dench.
     Director, Simon Curtis; screenplay, Adrian Hodges, from the memoirs by Colin Clark, The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn; cinematography, Ben Smithard (processing by Technicolor, widescreen); music, Conrad Pope, Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Donal Woods; costume designer, Jill Taylor; editor, Adam Recht; producers, David Parfitt, Harvey Weinstein (The Weinstein Company, BBC Films, Trademark Films, in association with Lip Sync Productions), USA/United Kingdom, 2011, 99 minutes.
     Screened: AMC Loews Metreon 1 (San Francisco), December 31st 2011. 


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