“My Week With Marilyn”
Luminous. That’s the best word to describe her. The kind of person who walks into a room and suddenly all the oxygen seems to be sucked out of it. The kind of person you cannot help but notice---whether you’re charmed, irritated, astounded, curious, star-struck, infuriated, or infatuated, you just can’t help yourself. You have to watch her. And she knows it. And sometimes she plays up to it, coyly, and sometimes, with a twinkle in her eye, and when she really turns on the charm she’s positively breathtaking, but then just as quickly she lapses into a paroxysm of self-doubt and insecurity, and there you have it, the enigma that was Marilyn Monroe.
It was an inspiration casting Michelle Williams in this role. She takes on all the complexities, even bearing some physical resemblance-----singing a sultry torch song, no less----but few could capture the luminosity like she does. She’s playing a living icon playing at being a living icon. OK, maybe she isn’t as innocent as she would have you believe. But she appears to be so lustrously gorgeous, oozing sexuality but with a certain playfulness, like any minute she could drop the costume and the makeup and the sheer effervescence and just be plain ol’ Norma Jean. Except she couldn’t. Because she really didn’t want to be that person, either. And nowhere is she more winsome than she says, “I just want somebody to love me who won’t leave me.” And therein lies the inherent tragedy just waiting to happen. But then again, icons don’t usually age well, anyway. And when they die young, their reputations never get old, either.
The year is 1956. Marilyn Monroe is at the pinnacle of her stardom, an international celebrity of the first order. She accepts a role in an English movie called “The Prince and The Showgirl,” with Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), he thinking that he could expand his reputation as an accomplished dramatic actor with a foray into light comedy, and she thinking she could expand her reputation as a mere “looker” by associating with some serious actors. In a way, they were both wrong. He, apparently, was miserable on the set, always complaining about her diva attitude and her unprofessionalism, and she, apparently, considered him to be a bully and a bore, and they were both right. Though she has her own entourage, she befriends this young Third Assistant Director, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), because, well, he’s sincere and transparent and doting and he kind of runs interference for her with the whole British crew. It’s an experience he’ll never forget. And in “real life,” after this film, Laurence Olivier returns to the stage for his most acclaimed role, and Marilyn returns to Hollywood to make “Some Like It Hot,” a wildly successful comedy, though her third marriage, to playwright Arthur Miller (“Death of a Salesman”), was already doomed.
We see in this portrayal of Marilyn Monroe the unique components that forged her stardom: a childhood of her family abandoning her, and the determination to “make it” on her own, but of course, needing to act like those hard edges and dark shadows weren’t visible to everyone else. Her sensuality came easily to her; she said she wanted the truth from somebody, but she also needed to be constantly coddled and encouraged, like a needy child who could never quite believe that she was safe and loved. Yes, she was maddening and immature and self-centered and manipulative. Ah, but when she shined, she shined so bright….
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas