Film & TV

"My Week With Marilyn" Takes the Sex Out of Sex Symbol

In the TV-movie-quality impersonation that is Simon Curtis' My Week With Marilyn, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) has arrived in 1956 London to star in The Prince and the Showgirl, directed by and costarring Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). The pill-addled peroxide blond sweeps onto Olivier's set with an entourage and habitually misses call times, holing up in her dressing room and searching for the character in a vanity mirror while emptying bottles of champagne. Production is soon at an impasse, as Monroe and Olivier, both surrounded by sycophants, throw knee-jerk tantrums. This bad behavior is seen through the hardly impartial eyes of third assistant director Colin (Eddie Redmayne), a role based on Colin Clark, whose two memoirs about his relationship with Monroe on the Showgirl shoot inspired this movie. Filmed through the Vaseline-smeared gaze of a schoolboy deluded by his crush, My Week With Marilyn is an oddly chaste movie about a sex goddess that not only shies away from depicting sex but also from examining its titular character's own sexuality. Shimmying stiffly in too-tight dresses, exaggerated belly padding protruding awkwardly off her modern waif frame, Williams' voice and movements reflect study but not feeling. You never forget that you're watching a talented living actress laboring to mimic a long-gone movie star who — onscreen, at least — never seemed to be acting at all.

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Karina Longworth