Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams received her third Oscar nomination for playing the screen icon Marilyn Monroe in the movie My Week with Marilyn. It's interesting that Michelle was the one who was mostly praised by the critics for her performance (and got the most awards), now she's not a really serious contender. Meryl and Viola are both so much stronger than her and it's quite sad that she doesn't have much chance as she's a great actress who really deserves to win an Oscar some day. Somehow, I feel she had a better chance of winning last year since then she was obviously the third one and now Glenn Close might easily get ahead of her. But we'll see. I can also see her pulling off an upset. 

My Week with Marilyn is probably the best title given to any movie and says the most about it. It really feels like you're watching it for a whole damn week and it's so uninteresting, bland and boring, it just drags along from one dreary scene to the other. Kenneth Branagh got an Oscar nomination for his performance as Sir Laurence Olivier, which might be deserved (compared to Jonah Hill, it definitely is). This movie is another proof to how shitty this Oscar field is and 2011 was in terms of movies (seriously, it was a better year for television). But here's hoping for better years! 

Whoever was going to play Marilyn Monroe in this movie was going to get Oscar nominated - that was my intitial thought about this movie. Marilyn is really a role to kill for: she has numerous possiblities to show the actress' range and talent. She needs everything, humor, sensitivity, an unmistakeable star quality. Michelle Williams may have seemed odd for the part considering she looks nothing like Marilyn Monroe, but honestly who can look like her? Marilyn was such a unique personality - I think nobody else could play her other than herself. But now here we have Michelle Williams, the best actress of her generation, with an incredible amount of sensitivity, beauty and radiant personality of her own. 

The main problem with My Week with Marilyn's Marilyn is that it's not as great as it could have been. Yes, Michelle is wonderful with what she has to work with but she doesn't have that much to do at all. What she most successful at is creating the star quality of Marilyn Monroe. For each and every second she's on screen, we can clearly understand why people went crazy for Marilyn back in her day. She's so fragile,  disturbed, radiant, attractive, seductive, sexy and all around brilliant - things about Marilyn that Michelle perfectly recreated on the screen. Although there isn't much of a  physical resemblance between the two ladies, I can hardly think of someone who could have pulled this part of Marilyn off so beautifully. All in all, it's just so easy to fall in love with Michelle's Marilyn Monroe.

As I've mentioned earlier, Michelle doesn't really have a great movie behind her. Not only that, her part is not as showy as it would initially seem. There are small breakdowns and touching moments here and there, it's just that we don't get a real portrait of Marilyn Monroe. Really, what was the goal of the Picture? It seemed to me that the director couldn't find out what to focus on: Marilyn's own storyline, the making of The Prince and The Showgirl, the love affair (?) between Colin Clark and Marilyn and as a result, we get total chaos in the movie: as painful as it may seem, Michelle suffers from this. Not all that much, because her talent shines through even the lousiest material. 

The chemistry between Eddie Redmayne and Michelle is clearly lacking and that's not really the fault Michelle. Redmayne is way too much of a dreamer and I couldn't really believe that he falls head over heels for Marilyn. Michelle does everything possible to be as seductive and sexy as possible, but I guess it wasn't enough.

Last year I kept praising Michelle's wonderful emotional intelligency in her performance in Blue Valentine. As Marilyn Monroe, she shows the same intelligence but not as rawly and effectively as last year. It might be unfair to compare her two roles to each other, but all I'm trying to say is Michelle is actually way too good for this dreary TV movie (there you go, I said that). All around it seemed much more like an Emmy performance for Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, not something that Oscar should really go for. THIS Marilyn Monroe she gets to chance to play is not enough for her talent. 

However, she shows some of that intelligency in some of the scenes, the one where she plays "the lost little girl" as Kenneth Branagh puts it as Sir Laurence Olivier. I was especially impressed by the scenes where we got to see Marilyn's insecurities and emotional fragility. I really connected with her character that way, mostly thanks to Michelle's interpretation. I especially loved the moment where she was watching a dollhouse with Colin. There's so much innocence and sweet despair displayed there by her that I couldn't get enough of it. I was really hoping that we would get more scenes of that calibre. And there are some, here and there. Her "big" breakdown in her bed is another wonderful example of how much Michelle can do as an actress. 

However, the songs were the real highlights of this movie: there's everything in them that the movie lacked. They are wonderfully expressive, exciting, heartbreaking, beautiful, touching and all the other things. In the end, Michelle's performance becomes as heartwrenching as it had to be and as we all know, a great ending can make up for all the other problems. 

I suppose my biggest issue with this performance was that Michelle could have been given so much more. She's proven it over the years that she's able to perform miracles on the screen with the right material. Well, this material just wasn't right for her. She did all that she could with this part, both technically and emotionally. Although some say it's mostly an imitation, I feel that Michelle very much inhabited this character and made it her own. It's a really great performance, it's just not something to go crazy about (just like everything else this year). 

What do you think?


Louis Morgan said...

I pretty much am in agreement. She certainly has several very good moments, but the film's inability to choose a topic frankly really stops her from doing more with the part.

joe burns said...

Agree, but like her even less. I think it borders on mimicry, and the movie is phony and disappointing.

I wanted to see WAYYYY more of Judi Dench!

Anonymous said...

I disagree, she's easily my pick for this year, and it's really 5 Meryls for me! I think that the way she was able to express all the fragility of Marilyn Monroe with just one look, with just her eyes, like after she messes up the scene with Dame Sybil, she's just brilliant in every way and I can't stop imagining how brilliant she would have been if the film had had a better screenplay. I wanted to see more and more of her. Branagh was perfect as well in my opinion. I feel she's a billion times better than Viola Davis, but that's just my opinion, I completely respect yours. Great blog!

dinasztie said...

Joe: Yes, more Judi would have been better. I hope we will get to see her more in the future despite her bad eye condition.

Anon: Thanks. I was disappointed even though I really wanted to love her (I love Michelle).

Joe said...

I feel like Michelle deserved it far more last year for Blue Valentine over Natalie Portman, so I am truly hoping she pulls the upset this year for MWWM. Her or Rooney Mara deserve the win

Anonymous said...

I thought the movie was okay and I thought Michelle Williams was fine - I just thought she had a mediocre script - it's like they dug up every Marilyn cliche they could think of (she's a drunk, a pill addict, she's promiscuous, stupid, mercururial, spoiled, depressed, morose, etc) and threw them in the film, so that we can watch Williams - a skilled actress - play each one. Still, I thought the movie was very pretty to look at.