John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

My Week With Marilyn

Genre: Drama, Foreign

Director: Simon Curtis

Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Dougray Scott, Judi Dench, Emma Watson

MPAA-Rating: Rated R for some language

Release Date: November 23rd, 2011

William Shakespeare once wrote, information pills “To thine own self be true.” It’s an ironic line, information pills considering that hundreds of years after his death, page some still question whether or not Shakespeare is actually the one who wrote all of his famous plays.

The new film Anonymous explores the theory that Shakespeare, played with relish by Rafe Spall, wasn’t the great writer readers know him to be. In fact, the film depicts him as an incompetent, manipulative monster who is all too willing to fraudulently accept the credit for writing some of the greatest plays ever written.

In one of the film’s most bizarre twists, it begins in the contemporary world, where an actor introduces the theory that Shakespeare, who he states came from a poorly-educated family, is not a great writer at all. The story then flashes back to the destruction of the Globe Theater. A man in the theater hides some documents underneath the stage and soon enough, the story then flashes to another time period.

If this doesn’t sound disjointed, it should. The story doesn’t really know where to begin and throughout, it flashes backwards and forwards lacking the sophistication of smarter films that could handle such transitions more smoothly.

Eventually, the story settles down and introduces the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), a creative writer who lacks an outlet to showcase his plays. The Earl wants to share his gifts, but as he notes, “In my world, one does not write plays.” He recruits the young writer Ben Jonson (Sebastian Armesto) to help him with his plans. Jonson, who Shakespeare derides as a writer with no voice, will be credited as the plays’ author. Before that can happen, Jonson’s obnoxious friend William Shakespeare steps up and starts taking the credit for the popular plays.

Director Roland Emmerich, who previously helmed big-budget blockbusters like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, surprisingly does a good job creating a strong atmosphere for this story. This isn’t the type of special effects-laden film that he’s known for, so it’s nice to see him using his talents in new ways.

Unfortunately, that satisfaction doesn’t carry over to the script, which fumbles the film’s sturdy premise. John Orloff, who previously worked on Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole and A Mighty Heart, has written an unfocused script that introduces too many forgettable characters as it plods along. That becomes painfully obvious as the story arbitrarily moves from one time period to another. Cutting out the unnecessary story lines and the unneeded cuts from period to period could have served this plot very well, forcing it to focus and spend more time on what it does right.

Anonymous skillfully presents Shakespeare as a narcissistic drunk who loves taking credit for another man’s idea. If this story is taken as fiction, his performance is fun to watch. In fact, the three main men in the story are played convincingly by Ifans, Amesto and Spall. Additionally, Vanessa Redgrave fully commits to her role as Queen Elizabeth I, a monarch whose sexual impropriety is explored in depth.

Despite its flaws, Anonymous has a few interesting ideas at its heart and it is staged well by Emmerich. I don’t believe that Shakespeare was the manipulative jerk that he’s portrayed as in this film, but I understand that other people feel differently. The film depicts an alternate reality in an interesting, but ultimately unfocused, way.

Only one word can describe Michelle Williams’ performance in the new film, visit this site
My Week with Marilyn – intoxicating.

Williams imbues her character with class, search
sexuality and self-doubt, price
making her one of the front-runners for the best actress Oscar next year. She’s the focal point of this biopic and owns every scene she’s in. The screenplay, though, is strong enough to build a story around her mesmerizing performance.

The film revolves around Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a young man interested in the film business. Clark is so eager to be involved in the industry that he spends days camped out at the office of the famous actor/director Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Clark – the persistent and wide-eyed youngster – eventually gets his big break and is offered the job as an assistant director for the upcoming film, The Prince and the Showgirl.

Monroe, who is acting alongside Olivier in the film, arrives on set and Clark becomes smitten with the seductive actress. Her fragility and self-consciousness only lure people closer to her. Despite her fame and overt sexuality, she longs for people’s approval and people– including her overwhelmed personal assistant– are happy to give it to her.

Monroe is such a fine actress that nobody wants her own insecurities to stand in the way. As one character notes, “When Marilyn gets it right, you just don’t want to look at anyone else.” So people comfort Monroe like an up and coming starlet, hoping and praying that she’ll have the confidence to be the actress they know she can be.

And Williams is at her best portraying the awe-inspiring star.

Although some might have reservations about casting the former Dawson’s Creek actress as Monroe, it’s hard for viewers to hold onto those doubts when Williams appears onscreen. She embodies the role. Monroe was a woman who many men fell in love with onscreen. I didn’t grow up in that generation. But I was immediately attracted to Williams’ portrayal of her. With the tenderness of a young girl and the charisma of a seductive flirt, Williams shows the many different sides of the well-known actress. When her husband Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) says “She’s devouring me,” audiences can understand the feeling.

Williams’ Monroe is a woman whose personality and popularity can consume you. But for Clark, being engulfed in her charismatic web is a thrill, not a turnoff.

The supporting cast is well-rounded and helps show the different reactions to the movie star. Olivier is the consummate professional director, calling attention to Monroe every time she arrives on the set hours late. On the other hand, Dame Sybil Thorndike (played by an impressive Judi Dench) is a fellow actress who supports Monroe despite her obvious flaws. Then, there’s Lucy (Emma Watson), who starts dating Clark only to realize that he can’t stop staring at Monroe. Lucy is, in many ways, a stand in for the audience. She never comes too close to Monroe and is forced to stand on the sidelines and simply observe the power of the woman that everyone is talking about.

In the movie, that woman is Marilyn Monroe. Come awards season, though, the woman who everyone will be talking about is Williams.

My Week with Marilyn is rated R and contains some adult content. There are several sexual references and some profanity in the film. The story also alludes to Monroe’s substance abuse problems. Adults—especially those familiar with Marilyn Monroe’s work—will likely enjoy this film though.