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Posts Tagged ‘kenneth branagh’

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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This Shakespeare play revolves around two pairs of lovers – Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) and Hero (Kate Beckinsale), who find that because of the deception of others, the path of true love does not always run smoothly; and Beatrice (Emma Thompson) and Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), who have an antagonistic relationship and fall in love almost against their own wills.

Kenneth Branagh directs, co-produces and stars in this adaptation, and what a truly wonderful adaptation it is.  It is full of colour and life, and left me with such a feeling of happiness afterwards, that it should be available to view on prescription!  Denzel Washington has never looked more handsome than he does here as the Spanish Prince Don Pedro, Richard Briers as Hero’s father Leonato and Brian Blessed as Leonato’s brother Antonio are both wonderful in their roles, and Kate Beckinsale is sweet and lovely as Hero.  It hardly needs to be said that Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson are both note-perfect as the squabbling Benedick and Beatrice, making perfect use of Shakespeare’s sharp and witty banter.  It’s worth mentioning Michael Keaton’s small but important part as police constable Dogberry, which he certainly makes the most of, stealing most of the scenes he is in.  The casting isn’t perfect – Keanu Reeves is an odd choice for the villain Don John, who leads Claudio into mistakenly believing that Hero has been unfaithful, and Robert Sean Leonard is rather wooden as Claudio.  However, there is so much to enjoy in this film that it hardly matters.

Although it does contain dark themes – the aborted first wedding of Claudio and Hero is upsetting, particularly as the viewer knows that Hero has been slandered – it is mainly cheerful with a happy tone throughout.  I’d recommend this to fans and non-fans of Shakespeare alike.  It is definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare adaptations.

Year of release: 1993

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Producers: Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Evans, David Parfitt

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Kenneth Branagh (screenplay)

Main cast: Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Kate Beckinsale, Robert Sean Leonard, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, Richard Briers, Brian Blessed, Michael Keaton

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Click here for my review of the televised live performance of Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (2011)

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This review refers to the 2006 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, directed by Kenneth Branagh. There are some excellent synopses of the story online, but in essence it concerns the love between Rosalind, the daughter of Duke Senior, who is usurped from his court by his brother Duke Frederick. Rosalind is forced to leave the court – accompanied by her friend Celia, daughter of Frederick – and live in the forest, where Orlando, who was lovestruck from the first moment that he met Rosalind, is trying to find her. As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, mistaken identity is a factor – Rosalind pretends to be a boy named ‘Ganymede’ and offers counsel to Orlando, to help him get over Rosalind. Around this central story are other sub-plots of love, romance, and the search for happiness and meaning.

In this version, the story is transported to Japan – this was a move which received mixed reviews. For my part, I thought it worked beautifully, affording some wonderful scenery, which was photographed beautifully. Bryce Dallas Howard was beyond stunning as Rosalind – she was luminous, and it was easy to see how Orlando became so entranced by her. Romola Garai played Celia, Rosalind’s best friend, and was great in the part, amply demonstrating why she is carving out a career as a respected actress. In truth, it is hard to select just one member of the cast as stand-out, as they were uniformly excellent. Brian Blessed starred as both Duke Senior and Duke Frederick, and made the two characters very distinctive, showing the harshness and cruelty of Frederick, and the kindly gentleness of Senior. Kevin Kline shines as a melancholy lord, and Alfred Molina puts in a great turn as Touchstone, a court fool (jester of sorts) who accompanies Rosalind and Celia when they leave the court. Other terrific performances include David Oyelowo as Orlando and Adrian Lester as Oliver (Orlando’s brother).

I also loved the epilogue in which the fourth wall is well and truly broken in a lovely way. Overall, this was a delightful, colourful, romantic adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s comedies, and I highly recommend it both to fans and non-fans of the Bard.

Year of release: 2006

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Producers: Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Simon Moseley

Writers: William Shakespeare (play), Kenneth Branagh

Main cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Romola Garai, Brian Blessed, David Oyelowo, Kevin Kline, Adrian Lester, Alfred Molina

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Click here for my review of the televised live performance of the play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in 2009.

Click here for my review of the play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in May 2013

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