Published Nov 24, 2011Since The King's Speech managed to deceive the undiscerning with its contrived narrative, cartoonish performances, blasé, visionless biopic aesthetic and after school special message of overcoming obstacles, it's likely that a similarly bland British biopic will pop up for the next few years at Oscar time, much to the delight of bandwagon-hopping American critics and Oscar voters.
Making its bow for the 2011 acting nominations is the "true" story of documentarian Colin Clark's (Eddie Redmayne) brief experience on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, working as an assistant to Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). And according to My Week with Marilyn, these silver screen legends had nothing better to do than confide in an emotionally immature 23-year-old about their deepest fears and thoughts while working on this film, often at exceedingly opportune moments, such as the last day of shooting or the night of a miscarriage.
It's all framed with a clumsy eye that is presumably aware that the performances are more important than continuity or basic visual flow, which actually works, since the only thing worth watching is Michelle Williams. While she pulls off the breathy voice and breezy, dippy smile, it's her unembellished depiction of Monroe's off-screen presence that compels as complex characterization. She manages to portray Monroe as a relentlessly needy and insecure woman feeding off any form of validation without vilifying or reducing her to a martyr or archetype.
On the other hand, Branagh's astute mimicry of Olivier comes off as more cartoonish than complex, much like Dougray Scott's depiction of Arthur Miller. And in the middle of it all is the homely Eddie Redmayne, running around with the same enthusiastic grin, giving supposed knowing glances when Olivier confides in him that he's envious and in awe of Monroe's talent, or when Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench) shares a wise titbit about love at the least likely of moments.
He, like the film, is a work of empty contrivance ― far too cutesy and convenient to be taken seriously as an actual human being telling a true story. (Alliance)