A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this engrossing movie based on the memoirs of writer-director Colin Clark isn't so much a biopic as a window into a week of Marilyn Monroe's life as interpreted by Clark. It's not a salacious account, but there are hints at how the icon traded on her sexuality (complete with a couple of glimpses of Monroe, as played by Michelle Williams, naked from behind). You can also expect plenty of smoking, cocktail drinking, and swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t").
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What's the story?
In the summer of 1956, actress Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) flew to England to film a movie with iconic British thespian Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). The film was meant to cement Olivier's stature as the best actor of his generation in a totally different medium -- he was the master of the stage, not the screen -- and Monroe as an actress of substance, not just one to be appreciated for her physical gifts. But by many accounts, it was a difficult shoot. Monroe, newly married to playwright Arthur Miller, was apparently already sensing estrangement in her relationship; she was also anxious about doing well and relied heavily on her acting coach for support. Into the mix comes Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), on whose memoirs MY WEEK WITH MARILYN is based. Decades before becoming known as a director and writer, the aristocratic Clark was just beginning his career in the movies. And what a start it was, spending a week becoming Monroe's confidante and suitor.
Is it any good?
Redmayne is a chameleon of an actor, sometimes gritty, sometimes noble. Here he's a naif of sorts -- albeit one with noble lineage -- who finds himself struck by the phenomenon that is Marilyn Monroe. It's Redmayne's ability to come across as both in awe and yet completely in touch with Monroe's vulnerability that endears him here and makes him completely believable as Clark. It must help to have the seasoned Branagh and Dame Judi Dench to work with -- and, even more impressively, Williams, who has found a way to become a Marilyn who still holds a mystery, despite pop culture's endless examination of the actress and her life. What Williams manages to really sell is Monroe's simultaneous innocence and canniness -- a major feat.
The screenplay errs on the side of thin; we don't really get to know (or understand) Clark or his motivations for certain choices. At times, you can't help but wonder whether the vantage point from which you're watching things unfold is ever going to be questioned, and the film often seems in awe of Marilyn when we long to really get to know her. But, then again, can that be helped? Wasn't that precisely the hold the actress had on everyone in her orbit?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Marilyn Monroe continues to be an icon. What is her lasting appeal? Can she be considered a role model?
Does Monroe seem aware of her magic in this movie? Does the film advance her status as an icon or demystify her in any way? How?
Do you think it's necessary for movies set in the 1950s to include lots of smoking and drinking? Why or why not?
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