Michelle Williams, known for quietly disappearing into introspective roles in films like Brokeback Mountain and Blue Valentine, is among her generation's most critically-praised actresses. But how does she acquit herself playing one of American cinema's most famous, larger-than-life women? In My Week with Marilyn, released Wednesday, Williams portrays Marilyn Monroe during the height of her magnetism in a behind-the-scenes look at the icon shooting 1957's The Prince and the Showgirl alongside Laurence Olivier. Despite early doubts that the twice-Oscar-nominated Williams could capture Monroe's out-sized personality, critics are saying she's "perfect" in the role, and worthy of a third Oscar nod (watch trailer below). Is her portrayal that good?
She is "perfection": Watching Michelle Williams embody Marilyn Monroe is "a magical experience," says Rex Reed at The New York Observer. The actress' "incandescent performance" shows the "conflicted woman behind the diamonds and the sunglasses" better than any previous bioflick or imitation. It takes a while to get used to seeing Williams as Monroe — "I've seen drag queens who look more like the real Marilyn" — but it soon becomes apparent that she is "letter perfect," assuming the role "like new skin."
"Michelle Williams in yet another impossibly starmaking turn with a sublime performance as Marilyn Monroe"
And easily the best part of the film: It's a treat to see Williams "glam it up after a career of playing ordinary women with dirt under their fingernails," says Rene Rodriguez at The Miami Herald. And indeed, she succeeds at making Marilyn Monroe "simultaneously seem larger than life and heartbreakingly human." But her astonishing performance "is the soul of this otherwise featherweight bauble" — the film doesn't rise to the level of the actress. Williams' star turn, however, makes My Week with Marilyn worth the price of admission.
"My Week with Marilyn"
She almost gets it, but not quite: Michelle Williams "tries her best" to capture the essence of Monroe in the film, says Manohla Dargis at The New York Times, "and sometimes that's almost enough." Physically, she's too thin and has the wrong complexion, though she "whispers and bobbles nicely." A capable actress, Williams is underserved by a script that offers "a catalog of Monroe stereotypes." By having her recreate all of the icon's most famous photos, poses, and memorable lines — "nude Marilyn, tousled Marilyn, singing Marilyn" — the film itself thwarts Williams' efforts to "turn the idol into a person."
"Glamorous sex goddess, longing to be human"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The U.S. Marines are developing laser weapons. Here's why.
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why the Supreme Court is allowing Texas to hold an unconstitutional election
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Ban PowerPoint!
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- Gamergate has backfired spectacularly on its nincompoop perpetrators
- Rise of the machines
Subscribe to the Week