To be perfectly honest, I had every intention of skipping this film. My first impressions from the trailer and some pre-release reviews were not necessarily positive. Even though it was on my list of films to see this season, I assumed I would just catch it when it came out on DVD. I certainly never thought I would write a review for it. Yet, here I am. It has taken me a few days to try gather my thoughts about this film, but after thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that overall, I really enjoyed it. If you are at all interested in Hollywood or filmmaking you will love the story line. But this film does lack that cinematic depth that would have taken it to the next level.
I feel like this film had the potential to be a great masterpiece, it had all the right elements. Marilyn Monroe is one of the most celebrated women of all time, her life and career were full of intrigue and drama. Her world was glamourous but mysterious. The film had amazing actors, like Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Williams and Eddie Redmayne. The film had beautiful locations, amazing costumes and lovely music. But in the end, this film wasn't able to pull it all together.
When I did my pre-season/trailer reviews, I think I said that this film would either be really good or really bad, and the truth is, it actually fell somewhere in between. The very best elements were breathtaking, and the not so great elements made me roll my eyes.
One of the best elements of this film was Michelle Willaiams as Marilyn. I was very skeptical about Williams's in this role. I was certain that she would make it too campy and suck all of the realness of the character. But, like a lot of things in this film, I was pleasantly surprised. Williams was outstanding. Her performance might not be Oscar worthy, but I think she honored Monroe's memory with her honest, multi-layered portrayal.
But as good as Williams is, I think she benefitted greatly from her co-star, Eddie Redmayne, who plays Colin, the young ambitious gopher, turned Marilyn's play thing. The chemistry between Williams and Redmayne is spectacular. Redmayne plays the inexperienced love sick young man perfectly and Williams plays the sweet succubus.
Kenneth Branagh is an excellent actor with an unbelievable resume, but I think he fell flat in his role of the two-faced, desperate director. His character, Sir Lawrence Oliver, is blinded by Marilyn's youth and beauty and unable to see the flaws in his film. He is frustrated with Marilyn's drama and inability to work but doesn't see that his failure is of his own creation. I think that the writers missed an opportunity to cast Sir Lawrence in a more severe light. He came across as an inept, childlike man, throwing uninspired tantrums. There was also a very rich chance to explore Sir Lawrences's wife's jealousy of Marilyn, but the filmmakers threw it away.
I think it is also worth mentioning that Emma Watson is in this film. The more I research this film the more I have come to realize that she is a huge draw for audiences. The Harry Potter actress has gotten more buzz for this film that its stars Williams and Redmayne. I ought to tell you that her role is incredibly small and she mostly smiles and stares. She is also wearing an awful wig. So if you are seeing this film purely to see the lovely and talented Watson, you may be slightly disappointed.
Now, I can't do a proper review of this film with out mentioning the artistic aspects. Over all, I was disappointed with the production design and cinematography, but the costumes were brilliant. The production design had the potential to be a rich aged quality, but most of the sets looked like modern England with a few period cars here and there. The cinematography was muddy and there was an unreasonable amount of soft focus which bothered me most of all. The cinematography had the potential to capture the Marilyn's glamour, but she faded into the background in so many scenes.
The best aspect was of course the costumes by Jill Taylor. They were the element that solidified Williams as Marilyn. With out the amazing, historically accurate dresses and outfits, I don't think Williams would have shined as much as she did. None of the costumes were over worked or campy and they flowed beautifully from scene to scene. My favorite outfit is the one she is wearing when she walks out of the Library and says, "Should I be her? Who? Marilyn," then poses for admirers. Check it out, and check out this film. I am very happy I saw it and it might even be worth seeing again.
(the images are off of Google)