January 2, 2011 -- This story about a young man's brief fling with movie star Marilyn Monroe in 1956 is supposed to be based on a true story, but it appears suspect, overly dramatic and embellished, as the diaries the story is based upon are said to be. Nevertheless Michelle Williams of “Blue Valentine” is utterly convincing as Monroe and Kenneth Branagh of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” does a nice job in the thankless role of a frustrated Sir Lawrence Olivier, who is at wits' end trying to direct Monroe in a movie, “The Prince and the Showgirl,” being shot in England. Both Williams and Branagh got Academy Award nominations for their performances in this film.
This movie is based on the diaries of filmmaker Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne of “The Good Shepherd”) who was just getting started in show business as third assistant director to family friend Olivier. Monroe at the time was married to famed playwright Arthur Miller (played by Dougray Scott of “Mission Impossible II”). Miller can't get any work done with Monroe's histrionics and the distraction of the movie set, so he heads back to New York. Monroe is not getting along with Olivier at all. Olivier is used to actors with a more blue collar approach to work. Monroe comes and goes as she pleases, when she pleases, and throws a fit if she doesn't get her way.
At one point, Monroe asks Clark whose side he is on in her battle with his boss, Olivier. Clark responds, truthfully, that he is on her side. The two spend a lot of time together in the idyllic countryside and in a sumptuous English gardens. They go skinny dipping and Monroe also appears naked to him in another scene after showering. There are darker hints of Monroe's addiction to prescription drugs, uppers, downers and sleeping pills. On the set, she is nervous and intimidated by Olivier. She forgets her lines. She is late or simply absent from the set.
Clark and Monroe's acting coach, Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone”) are constantly trying to reassure Monroe that she is a good actress and that she can play this light role successfully. Monroe seems to lack confidence, however, which is strange since she was the biggest star of her day. She is recognized everywhere she goes and draws a crowd, even when she is just trying to blend in. She doesn't want a normal life, however. This version of Monroe seems more like Marilyn Monroe clichés than a real person. Although she doesn't seem like a real person most of the time, even though Michelle Williams disappears into the role of Monroe. You can certainly tell this is based on Clark's diary since his character is drawn larger than life at the expense of the other characters, including Monroe and Olivier.
Thankfully, this is not a heavy film. There is a lot of comedy in it to go along with the melodrama. It appears to be more of a fantasy than a true story (Clark himself has hinted as much). At this late date, there are few, if any, people left to dispute the film's representation of the truth. While Michelle Williams may not be exactly the same physical type as Marilyn Monroe, I found her quite convincing. Most of the criticism I've heard about Williams portrayal of Monroe (at least from male critics) has a lot more to do with the size and shape of her breasts than her acting ability. I think she captures Monroe's spirit, or at least her legend, perfectly. William's performance gets my recognition as the best of 2011. This film rates a C+.
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