The meeting of Hollywood’s biggest star and Britain’s greatest actor should have been an inspired marriage of glamour and class but turned instead into a titanic clash of temperaments and acting styles. So Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier brims with old-world suavity and confidence, while Michelle Williams’ Marilyn is needy and nervy, turns up late and fluffs her lines. Yet when she gets things right, she is unmatchable – effervescent, natural, totally captivating. For all Monroe’s brilliance, The Prince and the Showgirl proved to be a sluggish flop, yet the film it has inspired fizzes and sparkles. This time the meeting of Hollywood star and British thespians comes off beautifully.
Eddie Redmayne is ideal as Colin Clark, the wet-behind-the-ears film-set gofer who temporarily became the star’s bosom buddy (and on whose diaries the film is based), and there is sterling support from Judi Dench as a shrewd, sympathetic Dame Sybil Thorndike, Julia Ormond as a rueful Vivien Leigh, and Emma Watson as the wardrobe girl who is Colin’s sort-of girlfriend. Branagh’s ripe performance as Olivier won’t be too all tastes, but Williams is simply sensational as Monroe. Without attempting anything so crude as an impersonation, she captures something of the star’s essence, a potent blend of flakiness and vulnerability, unconscious guile, sexiness and unquenchable charisma.
Released on Blu-ray & DVD by EV on Monday 12th March.
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