| At the height of her career, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) made quite a splash across the pond when she went to London in 1956 to star in “The Prince and the Showgirl” opposite co-star and director Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh).
The movie making experience, both on and off the set, was recorded for posterity in two memoirs by Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), “The Prince, the Showgirl and Me,” and a subsequent confessional volume that gives this film its title.
The 23-year-old Clark, the son of a wealthy, well-connected family in Great Britain, served as the third assistant director on the picture, but was nothing more than a glorified errand boy.
The sweet and innocent Clark, who serves as the narrator, is immediately smitten by Monroe’s beauty and charm. Monroe, at age 30, had already been married twice and was less than two weeks into wedded bliss with playwright Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) when she arrived in London.
When Miller goes back to New York, the fragile and insecure Monroe turns to Clark to play the role of her protector.
Clark gets to live out a dream with the most famous woman on Earth. They spend carefree days together away from Pinewood Studios. They have a few drinks and share some laughs. Monroe asks Clark if he is scared or frightened of her.
Their brief fling escalates as they snuggle in the backseat of a car. They hold hands while touring Windsor Castle. Their day of fun and frolic ends with skinny dipping and kissing.
Prior to becoming Monroe’s confidante, Clark pursues the wardrobe girl, Lucy (an under-utilized Emma Watson from the “Harry Potter” series).
Monroe is accompanied to the set by method acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoe Wanamaker), who acts as her cheerleader. Strasberg is constantly encouraging her with frequent pep talks.
There is a clash of acting styles between Monroe and the seasoned cast of British thespians. The latter having classical training and performing regularly in repertory theater companies.
Although admiring Monroe’s natural gifts and intuitive instincts, Olivier loses patience with her habitual tardiness. He seems to be always shouting and exasperated during numerous takes of the same scene. He realizes that Monroe is the film’s cash cow and encourages her to just try being sexy.
Director Simon Curtis in his first theatrical feature film, working from a spellbinding script by Adrian Hodges, gives audiences a wonderfully entertaining insider point of view. You feel like you get to know Monroe in an intimate and personal way during the 101-minute running time.
This dramatic biopic premiered at the New York Film Festival. It surpasses in quality “Me and Orson Welles” (2008), which avid cinephiles will recall containing similar storylines.
Williams has an uncanny resemblance to this Hollywood legend. She captivates the screen from the outset and this superb performance will earn her an Oscar nomination in the Best Actress category. Williams adds icing to the cake by doing her own singing of “Heat Wave” and “That Old Black Magic.”
A charming and charismatic Redmayne more than holds his own on screen. He transforms before our eyes from the infatuation of a boyish crush to the desire to be a loving companion on equal footing.
Among the ensemble cast of well-known British actors, Judi Dench and Julia Ormond make the strongest impression. Dench plays actress Dame Sybil Thorndike. Ormond inhabits the role of Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh, the heroine of “Gone with the Wind.”
Besides the divine acting, the movie’s other strengths include the splendid cinematography, a terrific musical score, breathtaking designer period costumes,
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"