About Monroe’s visit to Britain in 1956 to make The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier. She gets friendly with Colin Clarke who is a member of the famous Clarke clan. He is smitten with Monroe. Monroe has a difficult working relationship with Olivier but eventually the film is made and Clarke has to get over his infatuation.
The 1950s are very popular these days, I think it’s got a lot to do with returning to the supposed certainties of the past. There was still deference and civility brought on by the privations of war and rationing. People and their clothing look fairly shabby and colours look washed out. Michelle Williams does a good job of playing Monroe though she may not have got all the mannerisms. Monroe brings glamour into ’50s Britain as she arrives with her husband Arthur Miller. For me, this film has too reverential a look at Monroe. We get the usual misunderstood and vulnerable Marilyn, Elton John’s Candle in the Wind and all that. I don’t think so, rather she was overrated and pampered. She was the manufactured patron saint of the celebrity as martyr, which is actually astute when you don’t have any discernable talent: make a career out of your mental health.
Monroe’s acting relationship with Olivier is simplified to a conflict between classical theatrical acting and the aggressive ‘method’ acting fashionable in Hollywood at that time. Her ‘method’ mentor, Paula Strasberg, is played with pike like predatoriness by Zoe Wanamaker, a jealous nurturer of the Marilyn myth and the feeder of preposterous delusions about Monroe’s ‘genius’. Wanamaker plays her as a perfect wicked witch, her control mania seems to contribute to Monroe’s mentally harming isolation. I think it’s foolish of the film to play up Olivier as an outdated actor who feels threatened by Monroe, when you consider he’s been a successful film star for the previous twenty years. Indeed, twenty years later it was Dustin Hoffman who felt threatened by Olivier in Marathon Man! Branagh plays Olivier with tight lipped camp twitchiness, one actor who played Henry V playing another actor who’d played Henry V. He is increasingly outraged and baffled by Monroe’s prima donna habits. The two fight for control over a spoilt celebrity who mocked their perfectionism.
Colin Clarke is well played by Eddie Redmayne as a smitten drip who pathetically basks in her reflected glory, unaware that the bestowal of such condescension can only diminish his own admittedly tenuous claims to individuality. Speaking of this, it’s a moot point whether husband Arthur Miller felt diminished by Monroe or whether it was the other way round, their fame made them equals. Colin is clearly the beneficiary of big league patronization. If Monroe was a candle in the wind, then a film about her should be a welcome blast of rain, this well acted film just reverentially feeds the flame.