A scene from My Week with MarilynTo say Marilyn Monroe is an icon is like saying the sky is blue – it’s an indisputable fact. We’re familiar with her on-screen presence, her breathtaking Playboy spread, and her high profile marriages and affairs. But few have attempted to document the tragedy that lurked behind the headlines in a way that wasn’t sensationalist. My Week with Marilyn is a glimpse at the girl behind the star.

After spending every week at the cinema, Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) wants nothing more than to be in the film business. So he “runs away to the circus,” follows up on a family connection and lands a job on Sir Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) next picture, The Sleeping Prince (a.k.a. The Prince and the Showgirl), which just happens to be co-starring Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Marilyn’s adherence to the method school of acting and her constant tardiness tries Olivier’s patience, but the magic that occurs when she nails a scene is priceless. As Marilyn struggles with being in a foreign land amongst seasoned actors, she takes young Colin into her confidence causing him to fall hopelessly in love with her. Then the production ends and everyone goes their separate ways.

If you didn’t love, admire or desire Marilyn Monroe before this picture, Williams ensures you do afterwards. Her portrayal of the legendary actress is flawless, physically and artistically. She captures her facial expressions and manner of speaking, while exuding the same natural sex appeal that made everyone swoon. But more importantly, Williams takes you behind the curtain, humanizing the symbol. She convincingly conveys Marilyn’s vulnerability and puts her insecurities on display. To accentuate these revelations, stage performances showcasing the persona she presented to the world open and close the film.

Though to a lesser extent, the script also reveals the anxieties of Olivier and his starlet wife, Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond). He desires absolute control and order, and fears anything less will result in failure. His temper does not make his disposition any better when under stress. Vivien seems almost tragic as she passively accepts that she’ll be less desirable, professionally and personally, now that she’s “old” – she was only 44. Yet, she watches and interacts with the woman who has replaced her with class and a smile.

Based on the real Colin Clark’s books about working on this production, he was clearly paying attention and given unprecedented access to these personalities. An interest in filmmaking, these actors and/or Marilyn Monroe goes a long way in enjoying this film as it takes us behind the scenes with magnificent performances that bring an incredible realism to every scene. Finally, director Simon Curtis skilfully recreates the highlight of The Prince and the Showgirl in My Week with Marilyn to the same effect: alone in a room, Marilyn’s character completes a dance routine, effortlessly enchanting the audience. Williams simply shines.

My Week with Marilyn is undoubtedly an Oscar-picture and will likely result in many trophies for Williams. Thankfully, all the acclaim is well deserved.

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