Friday, March 16

My Week with Marilyn: Favorite Movie #47

2011 Biographical Drama
From The Weinstein Company
Directed by Simon Curtis

Michelle Williams
Eddie Redmayne
Kenneth Branagh
Judi Dench
Dominic Cooper
Julia Ormond
Zoë Wanamaker

To my friends and family... it is with great regret that you have to read another piece on My Week with Marilyn.  I am deeply sorry.  What?  You want I should leave it off my 50 Favorite Films list?  You want me to lie?  I told you, when first discussing this list, that there would be one recent film that actually made my favorites list.  Those of you who are truly gifted (not just the ordinary gifted, you understand) saw MWWM coming when I said that about a recent film making the list, didn't you?  Didn't you?

Well, here's the deal.  I am gonna balance this all out by promising to try real hard to never mention this film again.  And really, if anyone who knows me hasn't seen it yet (and it came out last Tuesday on dvd... hello???), I am asking you to send back the unused portion of your Wendy's Gift Card that I sent you at Christmas.  And lose my email address.

Oh funny, funny, funny, I'm kidding.  But what I am not kidding about is this film creeping onto my 50 Favorites list.  That ain't easy either.  Most films to make the cut have to have aged, like a good wine.  There has to be some history.  They have to not only have come out on dvd, but also on the later commemorative dvd... you know, the two-disc one.  MWWM doesn't qualify in this area but it touched my heart enough for inclusion.  While at a lowly 47, it is likely to move up on the list in the years to come... providing there are years to come.

What I will not do is my usual review of the film because I've done it before for you friends and family.  So a diversion is in order.  In addition to the storyline, the sets, the nostalgia, the loving tribute to Marilyn, there is this wonderful cast so let's just do a bit or two on seven of them.  Part of why I love this film is because I love these actors, so many of them. I want you to get to know them, too... and as they looked in the film.

Michelle Williams, of course, played Marilyn Monroe.  I remember first reading that she got the part and I was flabbergasted.  Boy was that a mistake, I thought.  But another of those surprises I like came along and I was astonished at how good she was, totally transforming herself in the insecure movie goddess.  Williams is mainly an indie film actress.  She is likely to be most famous for being the girlfriend of the late Heath Ledger and mother of his only child.  To me her most famous film is the astonishing Brokeback Mountain, made with him, and for which she received an Oscar nomination.

Many of her films I have not cared for.  I did quite like The Station Agent (2003) and Imaginary Heroes (2004), but not because of her but because of the films themselves.  I quite liked 2010's Blue Valentine and very definitely because of her (and Ryan Gosling).  I do confess to having her debut film in my collection.  Any idea what it is?  Lassie (1994), that's what.  Williams has never been better than she is in MWWM.

Eddie Redmayne plays Colin Clark, the young protagonist of the film. He is arguing the star of MWWM as he is the "My." He plays a lackey on the production of The Prince and the Showgirl and looks after Monroe while she is filming it.  He falls in love with her.  Watching him watching her, I am reminded of me watching Monroe on the screen for the first time all those many years ago.  Eddie/Colin and I were just so gone, so over the moon.  Redmayne with his red hair, his unusual face bursting with freckles, is new to the movies. If you're not familiar with his work so far, you will be. I first noticed him as Julianne Moore's son in Savage Grace (riveting, he was) and then in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, both 2007.  In 2008 it was The Yellow Handkerchief (yummy) and The Other Boleyn Girl. In 2010 he was prominently featured in the TV miniseries, The Pillars of the Earth. Highly anticipated is Les Misérables where he rubs shoulders with the likes of Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried. He is one of my favorite new actors.

Kenneth Branagh played Laurence Olivier.  Olivier directed the film The Prince and the Showgirl as well as starred opposite Monroe and it was very difficult for him.  Not only were they very different types of actors but she was very insecure and he was very specific and certain.  He was a great stage actor who wanted to be a movie star and she was the greatest movie star in the world who wanted to be a great actress.  His scenes where he is coming apart at the seems because of her shenanigans are quite powerful.

I quite like Branagh and I credit him with getting me interested in Shakespeare at whatever limited amount that may be.  In my dvd collection is his debut film, as well, 1981's Chariots of Fire.  Other Branagh films on my shelves are High Season (1987), Dead Again (1991), Peter's Friends (1992), Swing Kids and Much Ado about Nothing (both 1993), Hamlet (1996), The Gingerbread Man and Celebrity (both 1998) and I have just ordered 1998's The Proposition.  You see, I do like the lad.  Love his voice, love his face, even love that he is a bit full of himself.  Great director, too.

Judi Dench plays Dame Sybil Thorndike, another co-star of the film within a film.  She isn't given a lot to do, but Dame Judi makes the most of every second, as always.  Mere minutes are about all she was on the screen for 1997's Shakespeare in Love and she won an Oscar for it for playing Queen Elizabeth I.  It could have been a consolation prize for the film she should have won for, playing another British queen, Victoria, in the superior Mrs. Brown, also 1997.  I regard this as one of the greatest acting performances ever.  I own too many of her films to mention and that includes some James Bond.  Dench in the James Bond franchise...!  Honestly.  Well, the lady can do absolutely anything.

Dominic Cooper played Milton Greene who was originally a Monroe photographer but they were so taken with one another that they formed a movie production company and the only movie produced was the ubiquitous The Prince and the Showgirl.  He went along on the location to protect his investment.  I snapped to attention when I first saw Cooper in The History Boys, a lovely 2006 film about British high school boys.  In 2008 he was the young love interest in Mamma Mia and The Duchess.  In 2009 he had more of a supporting role in An Education and in 2011, larger-than-life in a dual role in The Devil's Double.  Keep your eyes on this one, too.  I'm surprised he took such a small role in MWWM but glad to see him again.

Julia Ormond played actress Vivien Leigh, Olivier's wife, as a bit of a frump which Leigh was offscreen in those years.  I suppose it's accurate to say Ormond has not fulfilled her early promise but I still quite like her.  In 1994 and 1995 she made the three films that established her as a name, all films I own and love.  The first was as the beautiful Susannah, the woman three brothers loved in the epic western, Legends of the Fall.  Then King Arthur and Lancelot vied for her as Guinevere in the wonderful First Knight.  Finally, she filled Audrey Hepburn's shoes better than I would have thought in Sabrina, again loved by two brothers.  All these men loving her...  no wonder.  What a beauty.  I think she has one of the great movie star names... Julia Ormond.  It sounds important.

Zoë Wanamaker played Paula Strasberg who was an acting coach of Monroe's.  Due to the actress's great insecurities, Strasberg traveled with her and coached her on movie sets, much to directors' great consternation.  I think she is sheer perfection in the role.  Wanamaker never indulged in much Hollywood moviemaking.  I actually don't think of her as a movie actress at all.  She was born in New York but moved to England when her father actor Sam Wanamaker was blacklisted and hot-footed it out of the country.  Zoë is primarily a renowned stage actress.  She no doubt got the Strasberg role because of an uncanny resemblance to her.

And that, as they say, is that.

Here, take a gander:

NEXT POSTING:  Clifton Webb

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