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Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Williams’

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 is a really beautiful movie. It tells the story of Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist, two young cowboys who meet in the summer of 1963, up on Brokeback Mountain. They forge a connection which stays with them throughout their lives. This film is wonderfully acted, and watching it now just reminds one of what a wonderful talent has been lost with the tragic death of Heath Ledger. He is outstanding in this movie, as is Jake Gyllenhaal.

The film is widely known as ‘the gay cowboy movie’, but it is so much more than that.  Ennis and Jake fall for each other so deeply, and at a time and in a culture where such a love would be heavily frowned upon (indeed, Ennis suspects that Jack is murdered for being gay).  It’s clear that Ennis in particular is taken completely by surprise at his feelings for Jack, and is not sure how to deal with his emotions.  He has always bottled his feelings up, and additionally, has always been taught that homosexuality is completely wrong.  He struggles with his feelings throughout his entire life, and eventually at the cost of his marriage. It is interesting to note that early on in the movie (before anything physical has happened between the two men), Ennis is talking to Jack about his childhood. Jack notes that Ennis has just said more words in that conversation than he has said in the whole two weeks that they had spend together up until that point. Ennis then says that he has just said more than he has said in the past year. This demonstrates how he finds it difficult to open up to people, but has started to learn to trust Jack.

Jack is more open about his feelings, and even at one point suggests that he and Ennis could live together.  Ennis states that that could never happen – he knows what can happen to men who are openly gay, and still doesn’t seem able to accept his own feelings, let alone be prepared for anyone else to accept them.  Ennis’ inability to accept his own feelings (and to a lesser extent, Jack’s inability to do the same) is a constant thread throughout the film.  Often Ennis’ frustration manifests itself in violence.  Indeed, when Alma, he ex wife reveals that she knew about his and Jack’s relationship, it looks as though he is going to punch her.

The final meeting between the two, where Jack makes it clear once again that he wants more than an occasional mountain break with Ennis, and laments that he wishes he knew ‘how to quit’ Ennis is very tender and sad.  Ennis’s reaction to Jack’s statement is even more emotional.

The ending, where Ennis goes to see Jack’s parents after learning of Jack’s death, is beautifully acted, and extremely moving.  It’s apparent that Jack’s father knows, or at least suspects his son’s homosexuality, and he takes almost a twisted kind of pleasure in informing Ennis that Jack used to talk about him all the time, but had more recently started talking about another man.  Ennis surely has to wonder whether Jack had finally found a way to quit him.  But then the discovery of two shirts shows that Jack never could and never did quite Ennis.  They really were each other’s one true love, and the tragedy is that they could never be together properly.

The acting in this film is excellent all round.  The two leads are outstanding, and Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are brilliant as the wives of Ennis and Jack respectively.  I really found myself caring about these people and wanting to know how their story would turn out.

I know that this is a film I could – and will – watch over and over again.  A tender, touching love story, which is wonderfully acted and directed.

Year of release: 2005

Director: Ang Lee

Writers: Annie Proulx (book), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana

Main cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway

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Click here for my review of Annie Proulx’s book ‘Close Range’ which contains the short story ‘Brokeback Mountain’.

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