Branagh “Steals” My Week With Marilyn

An HE reader attended a research screening last night at Manhattan’s AMC Lincoln Square for Simon Curtis‘s My Week With Marilyn. The British-made drama, highlighted by a knockout performance by Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier, is based on two books by the late Colin Clark about Clark’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) during the making of The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956.


Kenneth Branagh in some period film and not as Laurence Oliver in Simon Curtis’s My Week With Marilyn…although he’ll probably look vaguely similar to this in Curtis’s film, minus the moustache.

It sounds at first glance like an opportunity for a tour de force performance by Williams, but in the view of our correspondent it’s Branagh who stops the show .

“Branagh is the surprise of the film. He’s wonderful as Laurence Olivier — just brilliant. Like Williams, he doesn’t look much like his real-life character but unlike her, he’s aided by superior writing. He also perfectly mimics Olivier’s facial mannerisms and voice and hamminess to the extent that you forget you’re looking at Branagh. He steals every scene he’s in and is the reason to see this movie.”

Otherwise, she says that My Week With Marilyn “reminded me a little of Richard Linklater‘s Me and Orson Welles — same type of yesteryear feeling except that film was semi-fictionalized while My Week with Marilyn is more or less true. The problem, for me, is that last night’s film seemed to be missing the punchline. For me there was no ‘dramatic’ thread.

“Colin (Eddie Redmayne) gets his first job working on a movie, courtesy of family friend Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond), otherwise known as Lady Olivier, costarring her husband and Marilyn Monroe. Aside from briefly romancing the wardrobe girl, Colin is soon befriended by Monroe. There are a few scenes of him showing Monroe various tourist attractions and then watching her skinny dip in some river somewhere but other than that, the story falls flat.


Laurence Oliver, Marilyn Monroe during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl.

“Colin doesn’t sleep with her. He really doesn’t form any type of real friendship with her other than a superficial camaraderie that takes place over the course of a few days. This is the plot of a movie?

“Williams is an excellent actress but she’s miscast as Marilyn. Although lovely and luminous, she doesn’t have the right bombshell charisma, the traffic-stopping star wattage that made Monroe a celluloid icon. Not only that, the writing for Marilyn is trite and weak — she never comes across as anything but a cipher.”

My Week With Marilyn shot from 10.4.10 to late November at Pinewood Studios and in various London locales. It will probably be released later this year.

37 thoughts on “Branagh “Steals” My Week With Marilyn

  1. Yeah, that’s a photo from a different movie.

    I think that’s a key scene where Branagh’s complaining about how much he hates those vile radio pirates.

  2. Olivier’s and Branagh’s acting careers are pretty much the same. Olivier had ten acting Oscar nominations during his career and Branagh has a grand total of 1. A lot of parity there.

  3. >Yes, except Branagh’s HENRY V and HAMLET are both much better than Olivier’s.

    I’m an admirer of both Branagh and Olivier. I prefer Branagh’s Hamlet for its uncut text and the wide-ranging, athletic, almost musical performance he gives in the title role. But Olivier’s moody, noir-esque take is fascinating as well. As for Henry V, I have to say I would go with Olivier’s. The way he “opens up” the story from a reconstructed Globe Theater to a quasi-realistic cinematic fantasy is wonderfully inventive, and the early scenes in particular shed considerable light on the way Shakespeare’s comic scenes might have been performed in front of, and received by, an audience of that time. Watching Olivier’s Henry V you seem to be observing a continuity of theatrical tradition stretching all the way back to Shakespeare himself — it’s very striking.

    Nice to see Branagh enjoying a sort of resurgence lately, between Thor and this performance. I hope he has decades more of good work ahead of him. Apart from Hamlet, my favorite performance of his is as Reynhard Heydrich in the HBO movie “Conspiracy.” He’s stunning.

    Hoping to catch him at the Aero next week when they screen Hamlet. Hope I can still snag a ticket.

  4. Thanks, bluefugue. I was looking for a way to respond to DiscoNap’s statement, and you did a good job. Olivier and Branagh are almost apples-to-oranges. I like the gritty realism of Branagh’s Henry V, but, having seen the performed at the new Globe myself, I really admire Olivier’s. It really does put the live performance in context. Plus, it rallied an entire country during WWII, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

  5. I didn’t mean to shit on Olivier by any means, and he’s clearly the better actor, but I just wish Branagh weren’t treated like some fanboy on his coattails when he’s arguably the best filmmaker. That’s probably not even what anyone was doing. Well said, bluefugue.

  6. I really enjoyed Branagh’s Shakespearian run for a while. Too bad Love’s Labours Lost stunk and As You Like It went straight to HBO. In fact, it seems like Macbeth’s due for another big-screen treatment.

    (Going to Netflix and making sure The Tempest is in queue…)

  7. Just watched ‘Conspiracy’ c/o bluefugue’s comments, and agree that Branagh is remarkable in it. I have a lot of time for Branagh.

  8. Branagh’s Band of Brothers speech is really, really wonderful. He’s just amazing in everything. Even up to and including Wallander.

    I hope this Marilyn film will generate more interest and more $ so we can see him in more everything – writing, directing and acting.

    He’s one of those actors I will try to see everything he’s involved in, whatever the role.

  9. Have to add this – it’s a compulsion.

    Anyone see “How to Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog”?

    Terrible title because, really, who would want to do this or see anyone do this – but…another wonderful performance and the final scenes by Branagh was just so…touching. Something about the eyes. But also the jaded full circle. Robin Wright – minus Penn- also sooo good.

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  11. Terrible title because, really, who would want to do this or see anyone do this – but…another wonderful performance and the final scenes by Branagh was just so…touching. Something about the eyes. But also the jaded full circle. Robin Wright – minus Penn- also sooo good.

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  13. There are a few scenes of him showing Monroe various tourist attractions and then watching her skinny dip in some river somewhere but other than that, the story falls flat.

  14. There are a few scenes of him showing Monroe various tourist attractions and then watching her skinny dip in some river somewhere but other than that, the story falls flat.

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