“My Week with Marilyn” seems like it has everything going for it: a prestigious British cast including the likes of Kenneth Branagh (“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”), Emma Watson (the “Harry Potter” series) and Judi Dench (“Casino Royale”), an award-worthy performance from Michelle Williams (“Brokeback Mountain”) as Marilyn Monroe, and a solid story. The only thing is, that’s all the movie ends up being: solid.
The movie is based on the real-life experiences of Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne, “The Other Boleyn Girl”) and his time as the third assistant director, aka errand boy, on the set of “The Prince and the Showgirl,” a film starring Laurence Olivier (Branagh) and Monroe. It explores the behind-the-scenes drama as Colin observes the clash of old and new Hollywood with Laurence Olivier’s stage acting style and Monroe’s naturalistic acting style, and the crippling insecurity that plague Monroe during the shoot.
The problem with “My Week with Marilyn” is that it has the potential to be a truly great film, but ends up falling short of these expectations. One of the problems is its lead actor, Redmayne, is so appallingly generic. He has the pretty face and the charming smile that many a lead actor possess, but doesn’t have the ability to carry a movie himself.
Branagh gives a great performance as the volatile and short-tempered Olivier, though he does feel like he’s play-acting rather than taking the role seriously at times.
Williams is the lone brilliant performance of the movie, mimicking Monroe’s characteristics, gestures and her sweet, velvety voice down to a tee. She doesn’t perfectly resemble Monroe, but her surprisingly subtle and accurate performance makes up for it.
Both Dench and Watson are seriously underused in this film, as are Dominic Cooper (“Mamma Mia”) and Toby Jones (“Harry Potter” series). Apart from Cooper, they appear for all of five minutes each, and barely add anything substantial to the story.
Another downside of this film is that it looks and feels like a BBC made-for-TV film. There’s nothing spectacular in the way that it’s shot, and it looks exceedingly low-budget. Even the actors seem to treat it as such, apart from Williams, whose excellent performance would shine on the small screen and the silver screen.
Despite its hype and the stellar performances of the more experienced actors, “My Week with Marilyn” falls just above the mediocre line.