This “chick flick with a difference” chronicles a British movie made in the 1950s starring the improbable duo of Lawrence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. The story is told through the eyes of a young man just starting out in the movie-making business, who is assigned the job of babysitting Marilyn. Some decades later, after most of the people he talks about were safely dead, he wrote a memoir, which is the basis for this movie.
Michelle Williams portrayal of MM is not totally convincing — she’s too skinny, for one thing — but the simulacrum she creates is attractive enough. The movie makes you sympathize with MM by its slyly subversive observations about the faux snobbery of the British theatrical aristocracy. The most affecting scene involves MM in a library, looking at a collection of priceless Old Master drawings. Here, in an artificial, almost hermetically sealed environment, MM can actually respond as a normal human being for a few minutes, instead of “being her.”
As is typical in British ensemble movies, there are a lot of wonderful British actors in relatively small roles — Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Judy Dench, and the incomparable Derek Jacobi. And it was nice to see Emma Watson in something non-Hermione (although I hope she gets a better part next time).
This is a surprisingly sweet, charming film — much better, I am sure, than the rather silly movie they are supposedly shooting.