Film Review: Love, Marilyn

‘We all lose our charms in the end’ sang Marilyn Monroe once upon a time. Marilyn herself never did, which accounts for much of the fascination that the star still holds.

Filmmaker Liz Garbus uses recently uncovered documents to paint a picture of Marilyn Monroe using the actress’ own words. A variety of actors and actresses convey the words of Marilyn from her letters and diaries. Other contributors include friends of the late actress and experts…

Liz Garbus’ documentary on Marilyn Monroe is a fascinating watch. There have been several other documentaries on the star. Garbus’ film differentiates itself from others due to the fact that the emphasis remains on Marilyn Monroe’s own words. As these documents have been recently discovered, the film offers something fresh.

Unlike other documentaries which have been concerned with conspiracies surrounding the actresses’ death or rumours about her private life, Love, Marilyn focuses on her feelings about different aspects of her life. Although the recollections of others do appear, the vast majority of the film concerns Marilyn’s own words.

Love, Marilyn feels less like a traditional documentary due to its style. There is no narrator, instead numerous Hollywood stars read from the diaries and letters of Marilyn and others. There is an array of actors and actresses, including Uma Thurman, Glenn Close and Viola Davis. The fact that different actresses  are used throughout to voice Marilyn rather than just one means that the actress is not imitated. Furthermore, the variety of contributors exhibits the effect Marilyn still has on contemporary Hollywood.

Love, Marilyn is essential viewing for those even with just a passing interest in Marilyn Monroe.

Love, Marilyn is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2012.

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.

My Week with Marilyn Trailer

I cannot wait to see this. My anticipation is two-fold. On the one hand, I am intrigued to see how director Simon Curtis will render Colin Clark’s memoirs of his time with Marilyn Monroe for the silver screen. On the other, like many, I am curious to see Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. So many Hollywood actresses have attempted to replicate the icon in some form (for example, photo shoots by Nicole Kidman and Lindsay Lohan), it will be interesting to see how Michelle Williams does. My Week with Marilyn is out on 25th November 2011.

Film Review: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

One of the late Blake Edwards’ best known films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an enjoyable movie. For all the humour and drama however, there is something about the film that just doesn’t sit right.

When Paul Varjak moves into his new Manhattan apartment, the first person he meets is his neighbour Holly Golightly. Holly is a lively and extrovert girl, but reveals a more confused and sensitive side as Paul gets to know her better…

Adapted from Truman Capote’s novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s focuses on the wonderfully intriguing character of Holly Golightly. Changes from the original story give a bigger part to the writer Paul, as well as the addition of ‘2-E’, the married lady who Paul is ‘kept’ by. These alterations serve to level Paul with Holly; they are more equally in standing, therefore appear suited as a romantic couple.

The dialogue appears fresh and smart, even forty years after the film’s original release. Holly is delightfully quirky in her ways; she is ditzy but also amusingly candid. As charming as Holly is, she is also frustrating, particularly in her treatment of Paul. Holly’s dismissal of the writer exhibits a crueler side to her character.

The development of Paul’s character appears natural over the course of the film. The decisions he makes in regards to Holly and 2-E are understandable and believable. Holly, however, is less convincing in her behaviour. While this is undoubtedly a result of her troubled mindset, the conclusion she come to at the end of the film is rushed. Holly very quickly makes a decision at the end of the film, seemingly a snap one that does not appear to be a natural conclusion. While this may facilitate the desired ending, it is at odds with her attitude throughout the course of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Nevertheless, the finale of the film offers the audience some catharsis through Paul’s castigation of Holly. Although brief, Paul articulates what at least some of the audience would be thinking.

Marilyn Monroe was first choice for the role of Holly Golightly, before it was given to Audrey Hepburn. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not one of Hepburn’s finer performances. Although her omnipresent charm shines through, Hepburn is just not believable as an escort. Monroe would have been perfect for this role. She possesses a glint of sauciness that is missing from Hepburn’s performance. Elsewhere, George Peppard brings both strength and sensitivity to the character of Paul, while Patricia Neal is self-assured as 2-E.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an ode to Manhattan in its most iconic scenes. The styling is the greatest and most memorable aspect of the film. From the fabulous Givenchy dresses to the romanticising of the Tiffany’s 5th Avenue store, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a film that looks impeccable. Added to this aesthetic is the inclusion of the now classic ‘Moon River’, which is employed to great effect in the film.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is essential viewing for lovers of both fashion and New York, and an entertaining watch overall, in spite of its flaws.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is being screened at the British Film Institute from 21st January 2011 as part of the Audrey Hepburn season, as well as venues across the UK.