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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

My Week With Marilyn

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Dougray Scott and Michelle Williams star in "My Week With Marilyn."
Nearly 50 years after her 1962 death, Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate, with every detail of her often troubled life and loves endlessly dissected and analyzed. The latest treatment is "My Week With Marilyn" (Weinstein), a behind-the-scenes story of the making of one of Monroe's least successful films, "The Prince and the Showgirl" (1956).

Based on the 1995 memoir by Colin Clark, "My Week With Marilyn" presents the true story of the author's unexpected friendship with the actress during the film's production in London. What emerges is a sympathetic portrayal of a tortured, complicated soul, a woman who wanted only to be loved but, in the end, needed love too much.

"Everyone remembers their first job. This is the story of mine," says Colin (Eddie Redmayne) as the film opens. And what a job! Eager to escape his privileged British upbringing and break into movies, the 23-year-old looks up a couple of family friends who happen to be acting royalty: husband and wife, Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Vivien Leigh (Julia Ormond).

Colin lands a job as a gofer on Olivier's directorial debut, which pairs the distinguished actor with Monroe (Michelle Williams), the biggest movie star in the world.

Each partner in this unlikely collaboration has an ulterior motive. Olivier, middle-aged and past his acting prime, is eager for a comeback -- and perhaps an affair with his voluptuous co-star. Thirty-year-old Marilyn seeks prestige from Olivier and desperately wants to be taken seriously as an actress. At her side is her method acting coach, Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), who needles Marilyn to "feel" the role and "become" the character.

What ensues is a clash of titans—and cultures—as the set becomes a battleground. It's staid Brit versus free-spirited Yank, old guard versus young gun, tradition versus wild abandon.

Olivier, a strict disciplinarian, is driven to despair as Marilyn, dependent on pills and alcohol, withdraws. "Trying to teach Marilyn Monroe how to act is like trying to teach Urdu to a badger," he moans.

Salvation comes in the form of the innocent but smitten Colin, who longs to protect the star from the sniping establishment.

"You should get out more. See the sights," he tells her.

"I am the sights," Marilyn responds.

Nonetheless, with her third husband, Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott), out of town, Marilyn whisks Colin away for week in the country. In him she finds a kindred spirit, not a lover, and she musters the energy to stand up to Olivier and complete the picture.

As the insecure yet headstrong starlet, Williams turns in a bravura performance that goes beyond mere impersonation to something more genuine. She portrays Marilyn as a victim, surrounded by hangers-on who ply her with drugs, and a husband who scribbles cruel notes about her behind her back. Yet, in the end, she manages to take control and have the last laugh.

Directed by newcomer Simon Curtis, "My Week With Marilyn" is surprisingly chaste and free of exploitative intent, a handful of stolen (admittedly adulterous) kisses and two glimpses of Monroe's backside notwithstanding. This is primarily Colin's story, the tale of a decent man more interested in protecting the underdog ("She needs a chum," he tells Olivier) than bedding or victimizing her.

The film contains fleeting rear female nudity, brief adulterous kissing, a few profane expressions and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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