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My Week With Marilyn

This serves mostly as a postscript to my entry on Meryl Streep and the Oscar she won. After watching Simon Curtis’s My Week With Marilyn with Michelle Williams playing the impossible role of Ms Monroe, I feel more than ever that the award was given to the wrong individual.

The film itself is a simple tale of a young man who met the enigma that was Marilyn Monroe in 1957 when she went to England to star in Laurence Olivier’s The Prince and the Showgirl. Like most young men, heck like most women too, Colin Clark, the third assistant to the director, was awestruck by this woman. The two struck a friendship that was short-lived, but clearly served as a turning point in young Colin’s life (unlike the picture of innocence that is Eddie Redmayne who plays the role, the real Colin Clark went on to tell the tale of these little rendezvous in more than one form).

The film relies heavily on the nostalgia of Marilyn Monroe, a figure drowned in aura, mystery and indeed tragedy. This is what makes the role of Marilyn Monroe nearly impossible to play. Mostly because it is too overwhelming, for too many emotions, and a lot of sympathy continues to lie with this beautiful young woman who was destroyed by this cruel world (as most weeping secretaries on Mad Men tell us upon hearing the news of Monroe’s death).

Michelle Williams took on this impossibility and made it seem effortless on screen. She WAS Marilyn, all of her—the child who needed a nanny to escort and protect her by playing games to boost her confidence, the woman who was acutely aware of her sexuality and her impact on men, the difficult starlet who knew she could get away with anything on the set, and the broken little girl who was always holding herself back from running away and hiding under a staircase. Williams all but wore Marilyn’s skin, and after that, every move appeared Monroe-esque! Her body was at once highly sexualized, mischievous and yet completely vulnerable. The height of Williams’s achievement can be gathered from the fact that it seemed to me that she didn’t need dialogues to perform this role (or should I say, this person), because she articulated every emotion, every mood with her body. In one scene, she briefly tells of her life as a child, where her mother was taken away from her, and she lived in other people’s homes. She didn’t have to tell tearful tales of molestation, of betrayal and abuse, and yet it was all there in her desperate, almost bodily need for a person who would not leave her, whom she could trust. The tragedy of Marilyn Monroe was not spoken of at any length, but was there for us to see, in every shiver, and every hug.

It is therefore sad that this performance went nearly unnoticed, in the face of what can only be considered Academy politics.

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