I remember Marilyn well. I was in high school during her career peak. My mother held her up as the lowest form of pseudo-feminine media manipulator. My father always said she had no talent and got by on her willingness to work the false promise of forbidden sex. But wherever she went, throngs of crowds followed and dozens of books have been written about her.
Whatever she had, it worked and is still working. When she was on her game, no one could take their eyes off her. Marilyn didn’t need talent. She was fascinating for being Marilyn, a fragile, helpless apparition in distress, begging for salvation from a progressive self-annihilation of which viewers could perceive but not interact.
All this of course forces the comparison to new millennium versions of the Marilyn mercurial diva brand, most notably Kim Kardashian, who definitely has no talent but makes millions enticing people to watch her every move. Kardashian’s image is steeped in a Plutographic fascination with callous, calculating, moneyed trailer trash brats. Quite a difference fifty years makes.
But sure enough, here we are fifty years later watching Marilyn channeled by the outstanding actress Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain) and a cast of outstanding actors (Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, among others). The film is based on the (questionably authentic) memoirs of Colin Clark, who toiled as a gofer on the movie set and is said to have became friends with Marilyn. A telling quip summarizes the plot well: “Marilyn was a film star trying to be an actress and Olivier was an actor trying to be a film star. It wasn’t working for either of them”.
Williams carries Marilyn consistently and accurately even though sans makeup there isn’t a striking physical resemblance. The film production is near perfection. Michelle Williams glows. The supporting actors carry every scene masterfully. The pace is well timed and there are few boring interludes. The soundtrack is great and fits the action (Remember Nat King Cole?). I will be very surprised if she isn’t nominated for an Oscar.
Best feature: Marilyn, Marilyn and Marilyn.
Worst feature: Colin’s dalliance with Lucy the property girl is extraneous and goes nowhere.
I give it four and a half of five pouts.
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy– underrated actor Gary Oldman and Colin Finch. Promises to be world-class portrayal of Le Carre’s book, the first of the Karla Trilogy (1974). Will be a must see.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– American re-make of Steig Larsson’s first book of the trilogy. The book was excellent, original film was great (subtitles). Shows good promise.
- The Artist. Said to be getting excellent preliminary reviews. We’ll see.
You can be sure your intrepid reviewer will be on the job