Monday, December 26, 2011

My Week with Marilyn

That's a movie title, by the way... I didn't spend a week with anyone named Marilyn, I promise.

My Week with Marilyn is a really good but sad movie. You'll enjoy it if you like true (or mostly true) stories about people who changed our world. Marilyn Monroe did that. Yet as this movie shows, she was a desperately lonely, unhappy person looking for love and being used by people for whom love was a means to power.

Michelle Williams plays Marilyn at the peak of her film star career (at age 30 or 31). The setting is the production of The Prince and the Showgirl in London in 1957. That movie also starred Sir Laurence Olivier, played here by Kenneth Branagh, one of my favorite actors. Eddie Redmayne plays Colin Clark, a 23-year old film student who got a job working for Olivier and became the inspiration for Marilyn to finish her role as Elsie the showgirl. Clark's diary and books about his week-long experience with Monroe (The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me, followed by My Week with Marilyn) were the source for this movie.

I was eight years old when Marilyn Monroe died at the age of 36. So I remember all the photos and gossip about her in the late '50s and '60s. I saw a couple of her movies, including Some Like It Hot (1958), and had the typical boyhood crush on her. What I didn't know at the time, and what I suppose was watered down for the public, was how difficult she was to work with, how she struggled with depression and alcohol/drug abuse, and how unhappy was her childhood. This movie brings all those things up to the surface. In the hands of Michelle Williams, Marilyn becomes the grown-up who never grew up, the victim of abandonment.

I've read that Colin Clark's memoirs about his week with Marilyn are not to be trusted. That may be so. But this movie tells an important story nonetheless. It says that you never really know people. The most successful person out there may be the most insecure and unhappiest. Appearances deceive. A confident, beautiful Marilyn Monroe on the outside may be a frightened, abused waif on the inside. One of Christianity's main beliefs is that God sees the heart. This means more than simply "it's what's on the inside that counts." It means that God knows us at the very deepest level. There is no hiding from him. This is a truth both scary and comforting at the same time. Scary if you've never repented and trusted in Jesus. Comforting if you have - because all your sins and failures are gone. Christians are people who can be their most true selves, because they've been freed from the need to establish a record of their own based on being "good enough." Jesus is good enough for us. Christians also ought to be the people who free others up to be their truest selves. Unfortunately, we often fail in that department. Church is sometimes the place where it's most dangerous to be real.

My Week with Marilyn also illustrates the importance of family. At one point Marilyn says to Colin, "Little girls shouldn't be told how pretty they are. They should grow up knowing how much their mother loves them." Good parenting certainly cannot prevent all problems from occurring, but it sure makes a big difference. We don't have to be perfect parents. That will never happen. But what we can be is PRESENT in the lives of our kids. Marilyn Monroe didn't receive that gift, and she struggled her entire life.

1 comment:

Philip said...

I've been intrigued by her life ever since I heard that Elton John's song "Candle in the Wind" was about her. His song is a poignant testimony of a craving for something better. Thanks for the review and thoughts. Keep them coming!