"In 1976," notes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, "the year that Marilyn Monroe would have turned 50, Larry McMurtry wrote that she 'is right in there with our major ghosts: Hemingway, the Kennedy brothers — people who finished with American life before America had time to finish with them.' Almost a half-century after her death, the world, or at least its necrophiliac fantasists, still haven't finished with Monroe and try to resurrect her again and again in movies, books, songs and glamour layouts featuring dewy and ruined ingénues. Maybe it's because it's so difficult to imagine her as Old Marilyn that she has become a Ghost of Hollywood Past, a phantom that periodically materializes to show us things that have been. The latest attempt at resurrection occurs in My Week With Marilyn, with Michelle Williams as the Ghost."
"The 'my' is Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), a wet-eared assistant director on Lawrence Olivier's The Prince and the Showgirl who becomes Marilyn Monroe's minder and confidant," writes Sam Adams in the Philadelphia City Paper, where Anna Pan interviews director Simon Curtis. "Monroe (Michelle Williams) is a wreck, shadowed on set by acting coach Paula Strasberg (Zoë Wanamaker), whose clashes with Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) synopsize the schism between Method disciples and old-fashioned pros. (Getting Monroe to act, Olivier fumes, is 'like teaching Urdu to a badger.') Given that Clark, whose memoir serves as the movie's source, came in on Olivier's arm, it's not surprising that Strasberg comes off as something of a Svengali, more interested in protecting her work than her de facto ward. With Monroe's marriage to Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott) already foundering, it falls to Colin to act as her one-man entourage — or at least, so it goes in his story."
"Michelle Williams, an actress apparently incapable of giving a bad performance, is the picture's lonely saving grace," writes Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "The Monroe va-va-voom is very clearly just another one of Norma Jean's costume changes, and the real pleasure of Williams' work is watching her flip her sex-kitten routine on and off like a light switch. Deep down she's needy, fragile and desperately in over her head."
Karina Longworth in the Voice: "Filmed through the Vaseline-smeared gaze of a schoolboy deluded by his crush, My Week With Marilyn is an oddly chaste movie about a sex goddess that not only shies away from depicting sex, but also from examining its titular character's own sexuality as it manifested itself in her real life and as a consumer product. Perhaps the film doesn't dare make Marilyn sexy because it can't deal with the thornier issue of what it means to elevate a severely damaged woman into the greatest pinup icon of her time. Or all time."
More from Marjorie Baumgarten (Austin Chronicle, 2.5/5), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 4/5), Ty Burr (Boston Globe, 2.5/4), Dave Calhoun (Time Out London, 3/5), Robbie Collin (Telegraph, 3/5), David Denby (New Yorker), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 3.5/4), Dennis Harvey (San Francisco Bay Guardian), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago, 2/5), Geoffrey Macnab (Independent), Peter Martin (Twitch), Charles H Meyer (Cinespect), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Keith Phipps (AV Club, B-), Mary Pols (Time), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), James Rocchi (MSN Movies, 3.5/5), Lisa Rosman (Press Play), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York, 2/5) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 7.5/10). Earlier: Reviews from the New York Film Festival.
Cathy Horyn profiles Williams for the NYT. Interviews with Branagh: Kyle Buchanan (Vulture), Francine Stock (Telegraph) and ST VanAirsdale (Movieline). Adam Woodward talks with Redmayne for Little White Lies.
A couple of related items. "Marilyn Monroe (Taschen), by Norman Mailer and Bert Stern, costs a thousand dollars," notes Natasha Vargas-Cooper in Bookforum. "It pairs ninety-three thousand words Mailer wrote about Monroe in 1973 with more than a hundred shots from Stern’s 1962 four-day photo session with the doomed actress, snapped six weeks before her death…. Taschen would not relinquish a review copy. So instead of sticking my nose in all of the book’s 278 fourteen-inch pages — which I assume are creamy and thick — and relishing the exclusive signed and numbered edition, I fingered a scroll button while images of a dead-eyed starlet stared back, sending creeps into my insides. And in a way, that’s probably the most fitting way to take this curious project in."
In the Guardian, John Banville reviews Michel Schneider's freshly translated book, Marilyn's Last Sessions, "such a strange hybrid that one hardly knows what to make of it." Schneider claims it's "inspired by actual events" yet also "a work of fiction. The forger in me hasn't hesitated to impute to one person what another has said, seen or experienced, to ascribe to them a diary that hasn't been found, articles or notes that have been invented, and dreams and thoughts for which there is no source." Banville: "One could not ask for greater candour, yet the confession is hardly helpful to us in reading the book. Nor is the writing…. The 'last sessions' of the title are those that MM had in the final two years of her life with the psychiatrist Ralph Greenson. In the 1950s Greenson, who had worked with Freud in pre-war Vienna, was at the top of his profession, highly regarded both by his psychoanalytical colleagues and by the many screen celebrities among whom he moved — as well as MM, his patients included Tony Curtis and Frank Sinatra, the latter one of MM's last lovers. Greenson seems to have been entirely screen-struck, and had many connections with Hollywood. His work with traumatised soldiers returning from the second world war had led the novelist Leo Rosten to cast him, in light disguise, as the hero of his novel Captain Newman, M.D., which was later turned into a successful movie starring Gregory Peck. Privately, says Schneider, Greenson 'wanted to be known to posterity as "the man who listened to images."'"
Also in the Guardian, Schneider lists his top ten Marilyn books.