If it's crap ... We'll tell you
It feels like a real shame that this took so long to get onto rental, almost five months actually, because if I had known the accolades it would go on to achieve back in November I would have made more time to check it out. As it is however, I took the time to watch it this afternoon, and have yet another film to add to my 2011 list. But how far up will it reside? Let's take a look.
This is a movie directed by Simon Curtis and made under BBC Films, and tells the story (based on true memoirs) of a young apprentice on a film set who falls in love with Marilyn Monroe. This man is Colin Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne) who leaves his family's home in the search of fame in the film industry during the late 1950's. He eventually finds work under Laurence Olivier ((Kenneth Branagh) who is currently putting together a new comedy named "The prince and the Showgirl". To Colin's amazement, Monroe will be playing a lead role (Michelle Williams) and as the third assistant director, he gets a front-row insight into her personality, performance, and difficulties. As time goes on they grow a close friendship, though one that is quite volatile, as the struggles to complete production grow more and more heated. Under the immense pressure of the media, and the business people behind the project, Monroe relies more and more on Colin to support her.
At its heart, this is quite a sweet and innocent tale, of a young man's love for one of the most famous women the world has ever known. But it has far more than just that, the movie focuses intently on Marilyn's personal life, her immense difficulties she had in her acting roles, her anxiety and stress, and her belief that she had no one to trust. It's a glimpse at the earliest and most famous example of "The Celebrity" and how the apparent benefits meant nothing compared to the struggles she went through on a daily basis. The film doesn't try to glamorise it either way, it shows both sides of the story and lets the audience make their own mind on how it all played out.
Michelle Williams as Monroe is simply stunning here; she captures all the subtle movements and poses perfectly, to the point where you genuinely believe her performance. Even in her moments of despair and breakdown, she still evokes the classic style so well; it is without any doubt the highlight of the entire film. And the camerawork makes the very most of it, again not glamorising everything, but making every scene have that glimmer and shine that Marilyn had in real life. Kenneth Branagh as Olivier is great to watch too, he has a very flamboyant style and narrow emotional scale like the classic playwrights. He brings considerable energy to his scenes and a great character arc too, as you begin to understand the reasoning behind his remarks.
The rest of the cast gives great performances too, from Monroe's coach (Zoe Wanamaker) to the second actress on set (Judi Dench) Eddie Redmayne gives just enough for the film, I think he actually shines the most in the beginning, before Monroe is introduced and he is striving to find work. His brief romance with a woman on the costume set (Emma Watson) feels a little forgotten really, maybe that was intended to illustrate the impact Marilyn had on him. But its ending feels a little too dry to be honest, on most levels it works well in context with the main romance story, but on screen does look a little disconnected somewhat. It's a minor complaint though.
From a production and camerawork point of view, this film looks simply beautiful. The locations feel like something from a Jane Austin novel, and capture the "dreamlike" sense of the relationship between Colin and Marilyn. All the sets are immaculately put together, showing not only the style and times of the 50's in Britain, but also the sense of freedom the countryside gave for Monroe. And of course, we see how the movie was made too, which will be very interesting to any cinematic enthusiast. It's all very much a joy for the senses.
I think if there's one thing I will bring up here, it's that I found it quite hard to relate with Monroe's character. Her dramatic emotion swings and brittle stance was evident for the whole film, and only near the end do you finally get the chance to put the pieces together. However, you must do this on your own, and for some that could be a bit difficult. Like Monroe herself, this film is far more than just a pretty face, there is a lot going on under the surface, some of which you may never fully understand. But then again, maybe therein lies some of the joy of this film, it's a true character piece that keeps shifting and changing, always with the wheels turning.
On that front, I very much enjoyed this film. The performances were top-drawer, visually it was fabulously sewn together and shot, the pacing was good, and it leaves you with a far better insight into Marilyn as well as how difficult the spotlight can be when it becomes too bright. It's a fascinating watch that I recommend highly, it's worthy of the Full Price. Catch this if you can if you missed out on it last year, as said earlier, it's far more than just a pretty face.
Thanks for reading! ^__^