Sunday, February 5, 2012
There is only one Marilyn Monroe
My screensaver on my Smart phone is a black and white photo of Marilyn Monroe in a bikini about to go down a slide into a pool. I have several other framed pictures of her in a spare bedroom upstairs. I love the look of women in the late 1950s and 1960s, overall. To me, there's never been a period in history when women were more sexy and beautiful. But Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful of all. I admire her in the way that everyone else during her time seemed to: as an object of extraordinary beauty. Nothing more.
The camera loved in her in a way that, to me, it has never loved another. Her beauty is other worldly. And that special something, that spark, I've never seen that in another woman. The biographies and interviews with those who knew her say that it was manufactured. Marilyn Monroe was a clever creation of sexy poses, fluid movements and a delicate whisper of a voice. But that doesn't matter. What she created was art. Her beauty, her persona -- it worked and continues to work to woo and enchant all of us.
All of this poses quite a challenge for an actress attempting to portray her. Portraying a character who herself was a character is difficult enough. Portraying one so extraordinarily enigmatic, that's nearly impossible. Which is why it wasn't Michelle Williams' fault she fell so flat in "My Week With Marilyn." Flat doesn't even seem to describe it. False maybe gets closer. Marilyn Monroe swallowed the meek and ordinary Williams the way she swallowed the lives of every man she ever loved. A great performance by a leading actress is one where the actress herself disappears. She becomes the role. There was only one moment in "My Week With Marilyn" where I didn't feel Williams' straining to portray a woman far beyond her own ability to charm, enchant, intrigue and excite. She was laying on a couch talking with Colin Clark about the many men she's loved and wondering why they've all gone wrong. She says, "They always seem right at the start." I remember thinking if Williams could only be this effortless throughout the whole film, her performance could be brilliant. Unfortunately, it was a fleeting moment.
If you plan to see the film to get a peek at who Marilyn was behind the scenes, you'll be disappointed. The movie is based on a memoir written by Colin Clark about a week spent with Marilyn during the filming of "The Prince and the Showgirl," but it barely scratches the surface of being any sort of character study of Marilyn. That's probably best. Williams couldn't have pulled it off. Rather, it's a sweet little film about the power a beautiful woman can have over a man. One man after another is so taken by Marilyn's stunning beauty that it seems to be life changing, and just as quickly, she turns her gaze to another.
Williams was my early pick for best actress, judging just be previews. But I have to throw my support fully behind Viola Davis now. "The Help" wasn't a great film, but Davis was great in it.
I'm overdue on a more in-depth Oscar post. It's coming soon. And be sure to check out the Feb. 24 Currents section for my official picks before the big show.