Film Review: My Week with Marilyn

Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn is an absorbing drama that is finely paced, well acted and stylishly shot.

Colin Clark longs to work in the motion picture industry. After some perseverance, he gets a job working for Sir Laurence Olivier’s production company. Colin becomes third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl, working with Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, who is the biggest star in 1956. Colin sees firsthand the tense relationship between director and star…

Based on Colin Clark’s memoirs, My Week with Marilyn documents the star’s trip to England to work on Laurence Olivier’s The Prince and the Showgirl. Simon Curtis’ film is populated with well-known characters, yet none of these seem to appear simply for novelty value. Owing to the fame of the title character, it is clear how the film will end, even if the details remain ambiguous. Nevertheless, this will not hinder the audience’s overall enjoyment of the film.

Clark’s perspective is an interesting one, as he is a newcomer to the film industry. Sharing his viewpoint offers viewers his fairly naive perspective, a contrast to the film’s more jaded characters. Whilst Colin may view Marilyn as fragile, an opinion the audience is invited to share, the film is all the better for including the differing views of the cast and crew.

Michelle Williams gives a spirited performance. It is clear she has meticulously studied the famous character. However, for all her talent, Williams is never fully convincing as Marilyn Monroe. Part of the problem is that Marilyn is such a famous person, and her performances so ingrained in the imagination. Every nuance of Williams’ will be scrutinised as she is acting out scenes from The Prince and the Showgirl that some of the audience will be familiar with. The other critical aspect is that Williams is rather well known herself. Thus it is inescapable that this is Michelle Williams doing an impression of Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps an unknown actress would have been best cast in the role.

Elsewhere, Kenneth Branagh is excellent as Laurence Olivier. Eddie Redmayne is convincing as Colin Clark, and Dominic Cooper is solid as ever as Milton Greene. Ben Smithard’s cinematography is wonderful; with Williams shot to look as much like Marilyn as possible. Jill Taylor’s costumes are fantastic, with the costume designer likely to receive plenty of nominations for her work on this film.

My Week with Marilyn is a well-produced film that should satisfy audiences. It is a must-see for fans of Monroe, who no doubt will pour over every detail.

Film Review: Thor

Everyone seems to get their own superhero movie these days. Even Thor, well known but not the most popular of Marvel characters. It is refreshing that these lesser heroes take the spotlight once in a while, a break from the frequent instalments and re-imaginings featuring the most popular comic book protagonists (Spiderman, to name but one).

Brave and brash Thor has always been confident that he would become king. When his coronation ceremony is interrupted, Thor seeks revenge and inadvertently reignites an ancient war. Cast out of Asgard by his father Odin, Thor is banished to Earth…

Thor is an entertaining blockbuster that should please fans of the comic and general cinemagoers alike. The narrative is what one would expect from this genre. It is neither disappointing nor illuminating. Still, Thor distinguishes itself from its contemporaries as much of the action takes place in a fantasy realm. Even the scenes set on Earth occur in indistinct surroundings; the dessert of New Mexico instead of Spiderman‘s New York or The Green Hornet‘s Los Angeles.

Momentum is good in Thor; director Kenneth Branagh keeps the action moving. There is a good balance of action set pieces and conversation-heavy scenes. The ‘fish out of water’ comedy works well, and is a good contrast to the grandiose nature of what is at stake in the film.

Effects in the film are generally good, although some sequences are heavily laden with CGI. Not much in either of the two other-worlds looks real, but perhaps that is the point. Art direction in the fantasy realm scenes is fantastic; there is a real sense of spectacle. The use of 3D is inoffensive. It is easy to forget that the film is in 3D. While it is certainly a good thing that the use of 3D is not distracting, there does not seem to be a point in paying extra to see Thor this way.

Chris Hemsworth offers a good performance as Thor. He looks appropriate for the role, and offers a sincerity that is believable. Anthony Hopkins is decent as Odin, although the actor seems destined to play the grand patriarch for the rest of his career. Tom Hiddleston is suitably ambiguous as Loki. Natalie Portman has little opportunity to show range, thanks to the lack of character development.

With the references to other characters in the Marvel realm, Thor feels at times merely a precursor to the hotly-anticipated movie The Avengers. Nonetheless, Branagh’s well-crafted film is very entertaining.