For the past several years, Michelle Williams has been pretty much incapable of doing wrong. After acclaimed performances in movies like Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine (not to mention a couple of Oscar and Golden Globe nods), she's earned a reputation as one of Hollywood’s go-to “serious actresses.” Williams does seem like a decent choice to play an inimitable icon like Marilyn Monroe, but unfortunately her acting chops can’t save her in the oddly bland My Week With Marilyn (directed by Simon Curtis, written by Adrian Hodges).
The supposedly true story is that newlywed Marilyn has traveled to England to shoot a movie with Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). While on set, she meets Colin (Eddie Redmayne), a freckly young whippersnapper who comforts and encourages her when pills won’t do the trick. This all sounds like the stuff of frothy period romance, but it comes off as dated, silly, and a little boring. Williams and Redmayne have almost no chemistry, to the point that I can barely remember if they even made it to first base. To be fair, this isn’t entirely their fault. In certain scenes, it’s clear that Williams might have pulled off Marilyn with a better script. She dazzles in the opening musical number featured in the trailer, and her ability to differentiate between Marilyn the person and Marilyn the actress is impressive.
Despite its many flaws (the soft lighting and cheesy score are perhaps the worst offenders), the movie does have a few redeeming qualities. Dame Judi Dench, as usual, kills it as a veteran actress rooting for Marilyn to pull through her breakdown. Branagh’s impression of Olivier is highly entertaining, and Redmayne, though he sometimes just looks happy to be there, is nonetheless really, really attractive. Harry Potter fans will also be happy to see Emma Watson appearing all too briefly as Redmayne’s other love interest. She’s not in the movie for very long, but it’s still exciting to see her showing her post-Hermione potential.
Overall though, My Week With Marilyn is not the classic romance the Weinsteins want it to be. The movie will probably still get nominated for a ton of awards (and hey, the costumes are totally legit), but maybe it’s time to give period films a rest. They just ain’t what they used to be.