My Week With Marilyn recounts the memoirs of a guy who worked as a gopher on one of Marilyn Monroe’s movies, The Princess and The Showgirl. Actually in the film he’s depicted as the third assistant director, which I guess in the States would be the 2nd second AD. Although in MWWM he seems more like a kind of producer’s assistant what with procuring houses for the stars of the film and accompanying Monroe on shopping trips.

Michelle Williams captures the charms and idiosyncrasies of Monroe, just as Kenneth Branagh plays Sir Laurence Olivier to the hilt, ditto Judi Dench playing Dame Sybil Thorndike, Julia Ormond as Vivian Leigh, and Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller. There are others; in fact if you were into 50s British cinema you’d revel in depictions of cinematographer Jack Cardiff or producer Milton Greene. Trouble is there’s too much syrup on display. The story is sweet but the performances are all saccharin.

Production values are solid and the film has a pleasant cloudy sky look, and that’s the thing that elevates the film into more than a cable level movie biopic.

Williams has shown solid acting chops in movies like Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy, Blue Valentine, all movies where she created a credible character from scratch. We all know what Marilyn Monroe looks like, it’s not like Williams is playing someone that I don’t know what they look like, like Victoria Woodhull. My Week With Marilyn wants us to believe Marilyn was full-blown neurotic, talking in a Shirley Temple babyvoice, moving like a prima donna force of nature. Maybe Monroe was all that and more but here it seems plastered on for the effect of a tour de force performance rather than an interesting story.

— Michael Bergeron