My weekend with Michelle

marilyn_storyMarch 18, 2013 – Now and then you need time to chill.

Staying home for most of the weekend allowed me to do that, yet it didn’t stop me from catching two new movies. I checked the cable channels and was pleasantly surprised at the selections available and new to me, and discovered two starring Michelle Williams, who charmed me in “Oz the Great and Powerful”.

I’m not sure why I haven’t noticed Williams before. After reviewing a list of her projects on IMDB, I realize I have seen a few of her movies, but she never made an impression on me until last week. With my DVR loaded with “Blue Valentine”, starring Williams and Ryan Gosling, and “My Week With Marilyn”, with Williams, Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judy Dench, I was set.

“Blue Valentine” tells the story of a young married couple, with flashbacks to their promising beginning, right up to the last two days of their relationship’s sad collapse. Well acted and praised by critics for its raw realism, I can’t say I found it entertaining. It felt too real, as if I were spying on someone I knew. If I wanted that much realism in my entertainment, I wouldn’t go to the movies, I would simply watch through the windows of my neighbors’ homes and hope I didn’t get arrested. Find me a middle ground between far-fetched and realism that let’s me escape for a while.

The film did earn an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for Williams, and Golden Globe acting nominations for both Gosling and Williams, but I couldn’t recommend it for anyone who doesn’t want to feel hopeless after the credits rolled.

“My Week with Marilyn” was the polar opposite. The film focuses on the true story of Colin Clark, a young English man who worked with Sr. Laurence Olivier’s film production company when Marilyn Monroe was in Great Britain filming “The Prince and the Show Girl.”

Despite dealing with depression and desperation like “Blue Valentine”, there was lightness about “My Week with Marilyn” that I craved. Charming and witty, Williams played the part to perfection. As Marilyn she was believable and intrigued all of the men and women she worked with while making the movie. Still, the darker themes weren’t glossed over – we saw Marilyn’s insecurity through Williams when it came to her self-esteem and her relationship with playwright Arthur Miller – but it didn’t consume the story.

We also got to see Monroe drive Sir Laurence to the breaking point – she didn’t possess his love of acting or use the same methods as one of the greatest actors of our time – and it was clear she didn’t want to be an actress at all. She just wanted to be loved. It was also strange to hear others on set call the great but testy Olivier, Larry.

Always a delight, Dench playing British actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, stands out in her role as the only one in the film who was kind to Marilyn and encouraged her along. Yet it was Branagh and Williams who were nominated for the Oscars, and both deservedly so.

The two movies couldn’t have been more different, and Williams did a good job convincing me that two different actresses played the lead roles, proving her range. If you haven’t seen either of these movies, skip “Blue Valentine” and treat yourself to the charming “My Week With Marilyn” instead.

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