Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Week With Marilyn (2011)

My Week With Marilyn
Year: 2011
Director: Simon Curtis
Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Judi Dench
Before I begin my review….
                Now this is one movie I was really sceptical about.
                This had nothing to do with whether I liked the story, director or actors, it was completely to do with the love that I have for the late movie stars who are being portrayed in My Week With Marilyn. I am a massive fan of Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. I have so much Olivier and Leigh love that when my husband and I go to Gloria Jeans or Starbucks and they ask for our names for our order, we will more than likely give our names as Vivien and Larry.
                It is a strange thing watching actors who’s work you are familiar with portray other actors on screen who you are not only familiar with their work, but you have done so much reading into their lives that you feel like you know the person they were. You can either leave the cinema in a rage at the way they have been represented, or you can praise the actors who were portraying them for doing them complete justice.
                Luckily in this case, I am praising the actors. Particularly Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh who do deserve their Academy Award nominations for their portrayals of Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier. Although if I had to be picky, I’m still not 100% convinced that Williams had Monroe’s raspy but sweet voice perfected, but that is being very picky. She had everything else about Monroe that we know perfected.
                So I am happy with the character portrayal of these actors I love so much. It was just like watching my dear friends on the big screen.
                My Week With Marilyn is one of those films where the story line may not be terribly strong, but the performances are.
                Based on the memoirs of the same name by Colin Clark, Clark’s first book entitled “The Prince, The Showgirl and Me” may have been better to make into a movie than “My Week With Marilyn”. The same characters which would mean the same brilliant performances, but the weakest part of the film, which is the romantic relationship between Clark and Marilyn Monroe would be put to the side. Mind you, this is almost what happens in the film anyway.
                The year is 1957 and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) is the biggest movie star in the world. Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) scores the dream job of working on the set of Monroe’s latest film project, The Prince and The Showgirl with his hero, Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh). Colin gets the witness the way a film is made, but also gets the witness the dynamics of the cast and crew, in particular Monroe and Olivier’s fiery working relationship. Colin falls under Monroe’s spell, as he becomes the shoulder she leans on throughout the film.
                One of the big faults with My Week With Marilyn is that you really don’t feel like you get that much out of Colin’s week with her. It is true that you get a taste for who Monroe really was behind all the glitz and glamour and realise her fight to be seen as more than just a sex symbol, but it almost feels like it is just a waste of time putting any emphasis at all on the relationship between her and Colin.
                The screenplay and storyline does also lack a considerable amount of depth. There are no really emotional moments in the film and no real longing by the audience to find out as quickly as possible what is going to happen.  However, the film makes up for it in the character development and performances of the main characters. A considerable amount of research has been done on the film as to who all the characters were when they were alive and filming The Prince and The Showgirl.  Of course, research does come easier when the film is based on memoirs, and there is a tremendous amount of literature out there about these actors.
                My Week With Marilyn is, rather than being a script driven film, very much a character driven film, particularly that of Marilyn Monroe.  Michelle Williams does a wonderful job of bringing Monroe back to the big screen. She has the walk perfected, the body language and the facial expressions all down to a tee. Her voice doesn’t quite match Monroe’s, but she is forgiven for this considering she gets so much else right. The best part about her performance is how much emotion she brings to her performance. Towards the end of the film, you almost forget that you are watching Williams and not Monroe. She brings Monroe back to life and we get to see straight into her soul and you don’t just see Monroe, but you also see Norma Jeane.
                Kenneth Branagh is also brilliant as Sir Laurence Olivier. He gives an intense and electronically charged performance. There are moments you know you should dislike him, but his intensity is just so brilliant.
                However, the role of Colin Clark, played by Eddie Redmayne couldn’t possibly be any easier for him. He speaks of how much he loves Monroe, but he is just like a love struck teenager who just grins idiotically at his idol. Those Harry Potter fans who are eager to see Emma Watson in this film as Colin’s initial love interest, Lucy would be disappointed. It is such a bland role and completely useless in the large scope of the film.
                My Week With Marilyn is a not a strong film, but a film with strong performances by Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh. Granted, Marilyn Monroe fans will love it.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Artist (2011)

The Artist
Year:  2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, Penelope Ann Miller, James Cromwell
Before I begin my review…..
Let’s put it this way, anyone who saw The Artist before the Academy Awards this year knew it was going to win the big one.
I certainly did.
The Artist reminds me why I love movies. I love those trips to the cinema where you are completely engulfed by a beautiful film. It takes over you and causes an emotional reaction. I was in tears at the end of The Artist just from the impact of how amazingly beautiful the film is. The film reminds us that true beauty doesn’t always come in the use of colour or in the words, but in the way the actors tell a story just by the expressions on their face. This in itself is a tribute to not just the actors, but also to director and screenwriter, Michel Hazanavicius for getting optimal results out of his vision for the film.
The film deserves every Academy Award it won on the 26th of February and I will always remember it as one of the great joys I experienced this year.
The Artist proves that you don’t need dialogue, colour or special effects to make a truly beautiful film.
What makes The Artist such an amazing film is that it takes us back to the basics of cinema, yet it takes with it the things we have learnt in the meantime about what makes a truly wonderful and memorable film. The result is incredibly simple, yet incredibly complex and Michel Hazanavicius has given us something that we can truly marvel at.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the superstar of cinema in 1927. However, his superstar status is under threat with the arrival of talkies. He refuses to take part in this new fad believing he can make a great film without people hearing his voice. Unknown to him at the time, he actually helps talking cinema’s newest star, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) in her rise to fame, which directly affects his demise. George does not realise the power of the talkies until his star starts fading rapidly.
The way in which The Artist is made is pure brilliance. It is almost a film within a film. The story is a very real tale about what many silent actors back when sound was introduced into their profession had to go through. George Valentin does tend to mirror the life of Douglas Fairbanks in many ways, as Fairbanks was the action hero of silent film and his star faded with the arrival of talkies. He didn’t have quite as much of a fall as Valentin in the film, but there are remnants of the great Fairbanks throughout the film. Not to mention there is a slight similarity in looks there too.
On the other hand, the film is made with the techniques that one would see in a silent film. The over the top movements and facial expressions which the actors give and obviously the use of a film long musical score and appearance of the written word on screen in the place of dialogue every so often are all features of silent films from the 1920’s.
Silent film may not seem too exciting to some people these days, but The Artist is one of those truly amazing silent films where you will soon forget that you are not actually hearing anything coming out of the actor’s mouths. You can hear it all, spoken dialogue or not.  
The film completely flows from beginning to end, with each scene contributing in a worthwhile way towards the greater picture. There is a lot of fun to be had with The Artist, it is filled with old Hollywood glamour which we can only dream about these days. The costumes are stunning and the recreation of this period in Hollywood is visually stunning.
Jean Dujardin is just perfect as George Valentin. He is completely likable and he is everything a star from the time period the film is set in should be, as well as leaving no doubt that he also belongs in 2011. He is so expressive in each of his facial expressions and is everything a lead character should be. The audience roots for him all through the film and longs for him to come out of his dark stage and be the star they know he is.
Berenice Bejo is also the perfect old Hollywood starlet. She is all class and she lights up the screen whenever she appears. Her emotions are evident through all her facial expressions and she is an absolute delight.
And of course, who can go past Uggie the Jack Russell terrier? A wonderful performance by an animal actor with such purity!
The Artist reminds us where we have come from and how we must never forget the glory of cinema then, but also that cinema’s glory days are still in progress with beautiful films such as this.
If only we could see such beautiful smiles and happy faces as we see in The Artist in everyday life.