Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In 1956 confident Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) heads to London to work on THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, a film to be directed by and starring Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and featuring Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams).  Though his official title is 3rd Assistant Director, Colin acts as glorified gofer and becomes our fly on the wall.  The production gets off to a rocky start when Marilyn arrives late on set, leaning heavily on her Method coach Paula Strasberg (a wonderful Zoe Wanamaker) for guidance.  Just as the meticulous director and free-spirited starlet find an uneasy working relationship, her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), leaves for America upsetting the fragile actress and the shoot’s tenuous momentum.  Fearing abandonment, Marilyn turns to lowly Colin for companionship for much of the tumultuous production.  Adrian Hodges based his episodic screenplay on Clark’s memoirs, My Week with Marilyn and The Prince, the Showgirl and Me.  He conjures wistful scenes but never finds a cohesive story to tell.  Likewise director Simon Curtis, with the help of able designers, captures the period’s look and feel but fails to fashion a compelling movie beyond that of romantic nostalgia.  Redmayne’s casting as the thinly written Clark is the film’s fatal flaw.  The charmless narrator comes off as an ingratiating hanger-on with a demeanor more suited to an agent or production executive and is unbelievable as the object of the reclusive star’s affection.  However, the film’s chief pleasures derive from several memorable performances (Redmayne’s notwithstanding).  Judi Dench is delicious as Dame Sybil Thorndike but spends little time on screen, and Emma Watson (HARRY POTTER’s Hermione) shines briefly in the thankless role of Clark’s non-Marilyn romantic interest.  Branagh nicely evokes both ego and vulnerability, while Julia Ormond as Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh barely registers.  But the luminous Williams nearly salvages the movie by capturing Monroe’s spark and sadness so seamlessly you forget you’re not watching the real thing.  It’s a shame she hasn’t a better vehicle to showcase her considerable talents.

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