By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Your Likely Best Actress Oscar Winner
There are some great performances to come, no doubt.
But in spite of a fairly mediocre movie around her, Michelle Williams gives a performance that is, simply, beyond.
Like Charlize Theron’s turn in Monster, this is not something you will see again from Williams. But also like Theron, Williams embodies her character completely, never showing herself to be an imitator, even as we can hear and see so many similarities. She becomes a woman who might well have been Marilyn Monroe. She floats and seduces and loses all the life in her eyes and body and in way that is oh so rare, becomes an enigma that you can’t stop watching.
The movie, My Week With Marilyn, is based on a memoir and it is the story they chose. I can hardly demand that they changed it to better effect. It’s a rather ripe moment in Monroe’s life, so that’s great. (Another real standout in the film is an unrecognizable Dougray Scott – aka The Man Who Would Be Wolverine – as Arthur Miller.)
Williams great performances have, mostly, been about her skill is exposing herself emotionally… amongst the most raw, painful, real women you will see on film. But here, she finds that intense, sad, intimate truth, but also puts on a show as a showstopping sex bomb… and really brings to life how Marilyn’s power was about the energy she offered and not just boobs and butt and lips.
When she asks, “Should I be ‘her’?” at one point in the film and transforms herself instantly into the embodiment of her image, it’s not a movie moment… pretty woman turning the tables… it’s a glimpse into a person who knows so much, but who cannot bring that rational insight into the rest of her life. It’s not the great O’Toole moment in My Favorite Year, when he can finally take a bow, overcoming his fear and reveling in his status, but sometime deeper… more poignant because there isn’t the relief… it’s no nightmare on the surface, but it’s a deadly trap.
The performance could be compared to Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-winning transformation in La Vie en Rose or Theron’s turn… but I have to say… this performance owns its own space because the emotional shifts are tougher. The director has clearly studied all of Monroe’s photos and there are a ton of very specific references, which sometimes makes it feel stunty. But then, once Williams has some space to breathe as a character… well, I know this actress’ work and I have spent some time chatting with her and I didn’t see anything of the Michelle Williams I am familiar with in this entire film, with the exception of 2 consecutive shots in one scene. I can’t say that of her other terrific performances, however varied.
I give a lot of credit to cinematographer Ben Smithard and director Simon Curtis (both TV guys stepping up in class) for how they shot her face… but the light behind those eyes all comes from the actor.
She’ll likely be up against Oscar winners Streep and Theron, and perhaps former nominees Davis & Close. All great performances (I am assuming on Close, whose film I haven’t seen, but for which she has been endlessly praised)… but I can’t imagine that any of them is the kind of magic trick pulled off by Williams… who also is in the classic winning position of having been previously nominated more than once, including last year. (See: Colin Firth)
I wish the movie was as good as the performance, but then again, the eco-sytem that led to the performance deserves a lot of credit as well.