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Year of release: 2018

Director: Ol Parker

Writers: Richard Curtis, Catherine Johnson, Ol Parker

Main cast: Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried, Cher, Lily James, Dominic Cooper, Andy Garcia, Alexa Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Christine Baranski, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine

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Genre: Comedy, musical

Highlights: Julie Walters steals the show, Colin Firth is getting more handsome by the day, the music

Lowlights: Fewer laughs, more poignancy, a lot of lesser well known Abba songs

Overall: An enjoyable sequel once you have got over the shock of the main character from the first film being dead (not a spoiler – this is revealed at the beginning)

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This three part adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel features Hattie Morahan as Elinor Dashwood, and Charity Wakefield as Marianne Dashwood.  The two sisters, together with their younger sister Margaret and their mother, are forced to move out of their family home, after their father dies with his whole estate being bequeathed to his son from his first marriage.  Settling into their new life, both the rational and calm Elinor and the more impetuous Marianne fall in love with two very different men, but find that the happiness they hope for is not to be so easily found.

I loved this adaptation, and thought that in particular Morahan and Wakefield were superb as the two sisters, with the characters being very faithful to how they were portrayed in the book.  Dan Stevens (who was to subsequently find fame as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) played Edward Ferrars, the young man who immediately catches Elinor’s eye, and he played the role wonderfully – a pleasant surprise for me, as I never enjoyed his Downton character.  Dominic Cooper was suitably seductive and untrustworthy as Willoughby, the young man who charms Marianne over, only to let her down, and David Morrissey was well cast as the honourable Colonel Brandon (with Alan Rickman’s excellent performance from the 1995 film adaptation in my head, I was again pleasantly surprised at how much Morrissey made the role his own).

There were some very moving moments, just as there should be, but there was also a lot of humour in this production.  While I do not really want to make comparisons, I have to say that I preferred this to the 1995  film, as I think the casting was generally much better, and a three hour series gives better opportunity for telling the story than a two hour film.  (However, fans of the novel would be advised to watch both adaptations.)  I definitely recommend this show.

Year of release: 2008

Director: John Alexander

Producers: Rebecca Eaton, Jessica Pope, Vanessa De Sousa, Anne Pivcevic

Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Andrew Davies

Main cast: Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, David Morrissey, Janet McTeer, Dan Stevens, Dominic Cooper, Lucy Boynton, Mark Williams, Linda Bassett, Claire Skinner

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Click here for my review of the 1995 film adaptation.

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In 1956, Marilyn Monroe came to England to make a film with Sir Laurence Olivier.  The film was The Prince and the Showgirl, based on the Terence Rattigan play The Sleeping Prince.  Monroe wanted to work with Olivier, who directed and starred in the movie, because she thought it would give her credibility as an actress, and Olivier was initially equally as keen – so much so that Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh was worried that her husband would have an affair with Marilyn.  She needn’t have worried as it turns out; the most overwhelming feeling that Marilyn roused in Olivier was that of annoyance – at her lateness, her constant fluffing of lines, her moods on set…it’s safe to say that making the film was probably not an enjoyable experience for either of them.  (The Prince and the Showgirl is regarded as far from the best thing that either actor worked on, although I personally really liked it).

During filming, Marilyn’s recent marriage to playwright Arthur Miller already seems to be crumbling, and when Miller flies back to America, Marilyn turns to third director Colin Clark, for comfort.  The two end up spending the titular week together.  Colin Clark wrote two books about the making of the film – one of which excluded the week with Marilyn, and one of which concentrated solely on that week.  The second book is the basis of this film.  I have no idea how much of the book is truthful, and I was – perhaps unfairly – sceptical about some of the things he wrote, which made their way into this film – but nevertheless I found the film enjoyable from start to finish.

Playing Marilyn Monroe is a tall order for any actress, but fortunately Michelle Williams was up to the task.  She captures Marilyn’s mannerisms and voice very well, and more importantly, shows Marilyn as more than just the dumb blonde which she was often portrayed as.  She also demonstrates Marilyn’s extreme vulnerability and need to be liked (“Shall I be her?” she asks Colin, when they are surrounded by fans while on a day out, before breaking out Marilyn’s sexy poses and million dollar smile).

Kenneth Branagh was also brilliant as Laurence Olivier – in a cast full of brilliant actors, he stole the film for me.  I loved every one of his scenes; his exasperation at Monroe was entirely understandable – I adore her, but frankly she must have been a nightmare to work with – but he is not incapable of sympathy for her.  He also shows Olivier’s fear that he himself is getting too old for this business, and that his popularity belongs to days gone by.  I always enjoy watching Kenneth Branagh, and this is one of my favourite performances of his.

As Colin Clark, Eddie Redmayne had the unenviable task of making the audience care about someone who they had likely never heard of, when there were two characters in the film who were international stars.  I think Redmayne pulled it off.  There are other actors who probably could have done as good a job, but he was great – especially when you consider that other actors on this film included the aforementioned Branagh and Williams, as well as Dame Judi Dench (wonderful and absolutely adorable as Dame Sybil Thorndike, who also starred in The Prince and the Showgirl) and Zoe Wannaker (in a flawless performance as Marilyn’s acting coach Paula Strasberg, wife of Lee Strasberg, who is known as the father of method acting.  Strasberg’s constant presence on the set, and her undermining of Olivier’s direction proved to be another bone of contention between the two stars).

I really enjoyed seeing the scenes from The Prince and the Showgirl being acted out, and My Week With Marilyn acts as a nice sort of companion piece to that film.  Overall, great performances throughout and an interesting and touching story make My Week With Marilyn a film well worth watching.

Year of release: 2011

Director: Simon Curtis

Producers: Simon Curtis, Kelly Carmichael, Christine Langan, Jamie Laurenson, Ivan Mactaggart, Cleone Clark, Mark Cooper, David Parfitt, Colin Vaines, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Writers: Colin Clark (books ‘My Week With Marilyn’ and ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’) Adrian Hodges

Main cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Richard Clifford

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Click here for my review of The Prince and the Showgirl.

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