“Thanks for telling me the truth, Colin.”
My Week With Marilyn is concerned with truth. Laurence Olivier tries to get Marilyn to perform a truthful portrayal of showgirl Elsie in The Prince & the Showgirl, while Marilyn expresses trepidation that Olivier’s imagining of Elsie isn’t realistic. Elsie could be seen as a metaphor for Marilyn Monroe’s misunderstood likeness since she changed her name from Norma Jean and became the buxom bombshell we all know and some of us love today.
But I didn’t find that the movie delved any further into the Marilyn mystique than any of the characters she played or any of the men who loved her did when she was alive. It was really only after she died, and in a slew of “lost” letters and photos that have made up such publications as Fragments and The Genius & the Goddess: Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe, that we came to discover that she was much more than just a dumb, sexy, childlike blonde who posed with Ulysses to make her look smarter.
It tried to go there, though, when Michelle Williams spoke such lines as “Shall I be her?” when Marilyn and Colin Clark visit Windsor Castle, and after a fight with her husband, Arthur Miller, she says, “When they realise I’m not Marilyn Monroe they run.” But the film didn’t really show us anything different than the common perception of her.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I really enjoyed the movie and thought Williams did a great job with the script she was given. I just don’t think it was an apt representation of all that Marilyn was. As Dodai Stewart writes,
“… the biggest problem with My Week With Marilyn is that the film treats the woman who loathed being a sex object as a sex object. The story is told by a man who looked at her as a mesmerising other-worldly creature. Though he did have some intimate moments with her, a lot of the film involves Marilyn being gawked at by this slack-jawed fan-turned-friend who calls her a goddess. As a character, she is frustrated because she wishes people would see her as a human being, but she’s shot in the softest, most radiant light, frolicking through the English countryside and ever so gently batting her lashes: Male gaze ad nauseam.”
And while the film is wrapped up in a nice little package with Marilyn coming to say goodbye and thank you to Clark after having kicked him out of her bed and her life, I had the feeling he was still embittered about his unrequited love.
I haven’t read The Prince, the Showgirl & Me, so I couldn’t tell you for sure if this is the case, but even if it wasn’t, Clark was a 23-year-old boy who fell in love with the image of Marilyn Monroe, not the actual Norma Jean.
Related: Fragments of Marilyn Monroe’s Literary Life.
All Eyes on Marilyn.
Elsewhere: [Jezebel] The Problem with My Week With Marilyn.
*Blanket spoiler alert.
Image via Screen Rant.