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Negotiating the magic tragic web
on February 21, 2012
When I went to see this movie in December, inwardly I was lamenting the overall quality of movies in 2011, with a plethora of remakes, reboots and sequels, and I wondered if Hollywood was running out of fresh ideas, while recycling the same formulas. Remakes/reboots in 2011 included Straw Dogs, Footloose, Arthur, The Thing, Conan, Spy Kids, Final Destination 5, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Some of the movies were high quality such as Girl with the dragon tattoo, and Xmen First Class.
Last year Michelle Williams deservedly received her second Academy Award nomination for Blue Valentine, and now she is nominated for the role of Marilyn Monroe. I liked this movie enormously, and was disappointed that it did not get nominated for Best Picture instead of Extremely Loud and Incredibly close, a dubious choice.
Nevertheless politics being what it is if MWWM was nominated it might give the appearance of Weinstein Studios having too much sway with the Academy Awards, as they also released the Artist with 11 nominations, and the appalling Iron Lady whose only redeeming grace is Meryl Streeps nominated performance. They also released last years winner The Kings Speech.
What Michelle Williams and the movie delivers is a very delicately nuanced and multi dimensional portait of Marilyn that we have not seen previously, those shifts in personality, her ability to be vunerable, to charm, to seduce and manipulate, and if you are Larry Olivier the ability to frustrate your ambition to make an incredible movie. In a perhaps ironic twist in view of recent events we see the entourage of people who can't say no or risk punishment by exclusion.
So we have a young wideeyed man who through connections gets his first job in the business working for Olivier, and responsible for keeping things even with Marilyn. As they grow closer you wonder if he will be able to negotiate the magic and tragic web. After all what red blooded man could resist Marilyn. He has a more realistic alternative in Emma Watson's delightful character without all Marilyn's sticky strings. Here is where the movie takes some liberties on the book on which it's based, but the will they won't they aspect will keep you guessing after the final credits roll. The movie captures the period very well.
Although most attention has focused on the performance of Michelle Williams, I loved the performance of Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier. He listened to Oliver on audio to perfect the mannerisms and the lines, and even had the exact same shoes custom made to fit the part.
It seems fitting that someone who has spent a career following in Olivier's footsteps, acting Shakespeare and bringing the plays to the screen, may finally get the Academy Award for walking in his shoes.
It's clear here that he is a superior actor, and perfectly achieves both his theatrical mannerisms and intonations particularly rolling the R's. At the end of the movie he delivers a portion of a soliloquy from Prospero in The Tempest. This for me was like a spiritual experience, it was so sublime. Naturally, I hope that he wins although Christopher Plummer appears to the stern competition this year winning several awards in the runup including the Golden Globe.
When I left this movie I felt optimistic and relieved at finally sweeing a good movie. Shortly afterwards all the best movies were released in time for an Oscar run including The Descendants, The Artist, Warhorse, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Hugo. So, if you want to be an Oscar contender release your movie in December.
Recently we have seen a trend in the Academy Awards toward real life characters with Marion Cotillard winning for portraying Edith Piaf, Helen Mirren for playing the queen. Colin Firth for playing a king.
I loved this movie. I think you will enjoy it, and I hope this was helpful.