A veteran of stage and screen in the United Kingdom, Scottish thespian David Rintoul was perhaps best known by the timbre of his voice to an international audience, lending his voiceover talents to co...
Normally when a film about a historical figure finds its way into “awards watch” season you expect a certain level of intrigue from its content.So My Week With Marilyn should by all accounts deliver a little bite. Marilyn Monroe is a staple of American culture. We all know her face her voice her classic lines her wardrobe “malfunctions ” her tumultuous relationship history her power over men and of course that ugly little truth we like to brush under the carpet: the pill addiction that eventually cost her her life. This film purports to give us a look at the “real” Marilyn – the one the millions of representations of her haven’t already shown us. The problem is that by the time the film attempts to explore the darker corners of Monroe’s (Michelle Williams) existence we like our protagonist Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) are already under her spell. Just as we start to condemn her or look at her problems without the biased nostalgic eye most of us are afflicted with the film waves its magic Marilyn wand and quickly abolishes those less glamous notions. The result is a splendid yet decidely indecisive journey with a very complicated and often misunderstood woman
We meet plucky young Colin as he embarks on his first foray into feature films. It’s his dream and thanks to a connection to Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) he’s got a shot at working on a film. But it’s not just any movie; it’s The Prince and Showgirl a marriage of American and English sensibilities starring Olivier and Monroe. When Colin arrives he’s just a third assistant director to Olivier – essentially a go-fer – and can do little but admire Marilyn without hope. He takes up with a wardrobe girl named Lucy (Emma Watson) and goes about his duties. Of course things don’t stay this simple. His newness lends itself to a bit more flexibility so when Olivier’s rigid practices clash with Marilyn’s laissez-faire style and the production begins to slow to a glacial pace Colin is a natural fit to become Marilyn’s willing ally. Their friendship grows as Olivier’s temper comes to a boiling point and the result makes Marilyn a film tinged with a choice number of harsh realities – but as soon as they rear their ugly heads Monroe’s ever-present spell casts itself over them.
Of course this isn’t so much a criticism of the film as it is criticism of the weight given to the content. My Week With Marilyn is beautifully shot allowing the nostalgic air of London and Monroe in the 50s to take the lead with a few contemporary flairs to help keep us along for the ride. Every detail is impeccable from the music to the settings to the dialog. There isn’t a single weak link in the cast. Redmayne displays all the youth and earnest vigor demanded by his young character. Though her character teeters between a layered enigma and the girl the entire world knows Williams handles each angle as easily as Marilyn handles the men around her. Supporting cast members Julia Ormond (as Vivien Leigh) Judi Dench (as Dame Sybil Thorndike) and Branagh put their wealth of experience to tremendous use. Lesser known actors like Dougray Scott and Dominic Cooper take on American accents with minimal issues and handle their supporting characters with ease – and Watson delivers her usual (but welcome) lovely precocious act.
There’s really nothing wrong with My Week With Marilyn. It’s lovely. It’s smart. It’s extremely well-crafted. It’s a good film. But it does little to excite a reaction beyond that. And when you’re dealing with someone we know as well as most of the world knows Marilyn I doubt I’m the only one who expect a little more…va va voom.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Set in a seaside English town in the '80s this small heartfelt tale centers on the relationship between Edward a 10-year-old boy whose parents run a retirement home and Clarence an aging magician and recent widower who is one of the new residents. Lonely and curious Edward has a habit of befriending the old folks only to search for their ghosts after they die. When Clarence comes in both learn new life lessons as the older one comes to terms with his past while the younger boy finds reason for optimism as he faces the future.
WHO’S IN IT?
Michael Caine is wonderful in a startling character role in which the 76-year-old movie icon allows himself to look older drawn and beaten in parts of the film. Although the career of the two-time Oscar winner has been full of memorable performances ranging from Alfie in 1966 to The Dark Knight last year it’s this kind of realistic and moving portrayal that has marked the best of his work. and he’s never been better than in this memorable portrait of a forgotten magician who still manages to discover a couple of new tricks late in life. Matching him every step of the way is the engaging Bill Milner (Son of Rambow) who manages to go toe-to-toe with a screen legend without coming off as a too precocious of a child actor. He’s haunting and extremely natural in a pivotal three-dimensional role that never seems forced. Helping matters immensely is a great ensemble of splendid British stars who play the other residents including the great Rosemary Harris Leslie Phillips Sylvia Syms and Peter Vaughan.
Director John Crowley (Boy A Intermission) wisely lets his actors off the leash to create a chemistry that makes the modest story work its own kind of movie magic. Reminiscent in certain ways of the kind of British kitchen-sink dramas popular in the '60s Crowley resists any opportunity to let directorial flash overwhelm this poignant character-driven tale thereby letting it thrive on its own terms.
With such a superlative cast of British-acting royalty in the supporting roles you almost wish there were a few more scenes showcasing these characters in the film’s trim 91-minute running time.
Clarence rallies his talents to put on a magic show for the home’s residents. Caine pulls this off seamlessly and the sequence is pure delight.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
This quaint film won’t lose anything on TV screens and may be hard to find in wide release so take the opportunity to see it any way you can.
Played Mr. Darcy in the 1980 BBC Production of "Pride and Predjudice"
Made his first Theatre Royal appearance as a loincloth-bearing extra in the opera, "The Trojans"
Played Noah in "The Bible"
A veteran of stage and screen in the United Kingdom, Scottish thespian David Rintoul was perhaps best known by the timbre of his voice to an international audience, lending his voiceover talents to countless television and radio programs and audio books. He broke into the Hollywood scene later in his career, appearing in "My Week with Marilyn" (2011) and the Margaret Thatcher biopic "The Iron Lady" (2011). Shortly after, he made his American television debut playing one of the greatest patriarchs of history, Noah, in the hugely successful mini-series, "The Bible" (History 2013).
Rintoul was born in Aberdeen, Scotland on November 29, 1948. After studying at Edinburgh University, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, thus embarking on a long and esteemed career in British theater. Shortly after graduating from the academy in 1971, Rintoul took on his first minor role at the legendary Theatre Royal, as a loincloth-clad extra pushing a Trojan horse in the opera performance of "The Trojans." He would later appear on those same boards, tackling Shakespearian characters as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company throughout the 1970s and '80s.
When he wasn't delivering soliloquies on stage, he was a regular on Scottish television, but his big break came when took on the role of beloved dandy Mr. Darcy in a television adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" (BBC 1980). Before Colin Firth ever appeared in his wet shirt, Rintoul's turn as the storied snob cemented his place in the Austen televised canon. He later returned to world of PBS Masterpiece classics in the series "Doctor Finlay" (PBS 1993-96), playing a doctor in a small Scottish town after World War II, which earned him greater popularity both in the United Kingdom and stateside.
Rintoul always had both feet in the worlds of classical and contemporary acting, showing a versatility that lent itself just as easily to Shakespeare as it did to children's television. With the voice of a classical thespian, he was a natural narrator for multiple audio books, cartoons, and even video games. On the big screen, his turn as Admiral Fieldhouse in the celebrated biopic "The Iron Lady" (2011) followed his brief role as Dr. Connell in "My Week with Marilyn" (2011), before his major role as Noah in the Mark Burnett and Roma Downey-produced miniseries "The Bible" (2013) exposed him to a new audience.