|Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, My Week with Marilyn, Weinstein Co., 2011.|
Tis the season for overstuffed, well-intended Brit-Oscar bait, in the form of many a biopic and literary adaptation. This year's The King's Speech in its Academy pedigree, biopic showing a brief period in the subject's life, and a mesmerizing lead performance which is bound to capture awards.
Director Simon Curtis assembles a grandly handsome affair, replete with period-perfect sets and costumes, and follows all the Weinstein's rules of gold by focusing on Marliyn's sojourn in Great Britain to shoot one of her most dismissible films, Laurence Olivier's The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), in order to surround her by as many distinguished Brit-thespians as possible. Branagh, Dench, Jacobi and more fill the proceedings with a high falutin' air, yet somehow, Michelle Williams soars above them all with an astounding performance which defines the true star turn.
Williams, an unassuming, talented young American actress, becomes Marilyn Monroe in a spellbinding turn more akin to a possession than an acting job. For all its quaint production and entertainment value, the picture feels so light beneath Williams' fearless invocation; the picture itself almost cannot contain her!
Touching on themes of artistic conflict, especially the rift between old-fashioned acting and the Method, as well as generally displaying the journey of making a movie in however slack tones, Curtis achieves a moving picture which somehow manages to be smile-inducing and melancholy at the same time. Williams' display of Marilyn's struggle with addiction and depression is some of the best acting I've seen this side of Streep in a long while. Eddie Redmayne manages to make his lovestruck innocent feel authentic and new, and Judi Dench steals her scenes as veteran stage actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, who offers Marilyn a friendly hand.
What we take away with us is that Michelle Williams is one of the greatest actresses of her generation. Her Marilyn matches the depth of range she displayed in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (2005). Barely scratching the surface in Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine (2010), in the incomparable Marilyn she has found the role she was born to play.