Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, October 07, 2011

Can Michelle Williams capture the endless mystique of Marilyn Monroe?

One subject that Hollywood never gets tired of talking about is the power of past silver screen stars. The current flavor of the month is Marilyn Monroe,with two projects about her brewing up but only one is ready to hit the theaters.

My Week With Marilyn is based on two memoirs by Colin Clark,who was an assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl(which co starred Laurence Olivier).

The film follows Colin's brief connection to Monroe and the possible growing attraction between them. Michelle Williams plays MM and I have to say that,based on the trailer,she does have a very strong resemblance to Marilyn and has the acting chops to do justice to this most misunderstood diva:

Playing Marilyn is more than the usual daunting task for any actress beyond attempting to recreate her unique persona and physical appearance. She's been portrayed in multiple ways to suit the needs of the intended audience(and the agenda of the production)-as a lost child at heart,the party to pillow talk political secrets or a too needy for her own good gal.

At times,Marilyn's cinematic identity has been as manipulated as much as her real life one was and with no more concern for her than a kid would have for a piece of Silly Putty.

Fictionalized versions of her are always pretty popular,such as the 1974 made-for-TV flick The Sex Symbol. Based on blacklisted writer Alvah Bessie's novel,this take on Marilyn(called "Kelly Williams")had Connie Stevens doing her breathy best to pull off this middling melodrama off:

Given the fact that Marilyn was married to Arthur Miller one of the most cerebral celebrated playwrights in the world,it's no surprise that others in the field have tried to present her on stage and eventually screen.

Miller did so himself in After The Fall,which was turned into a filmed theatrical production for television but clearly he wasn't completely objective about that whole experience. In 1985,film director Nicholas Roeg adapted Insignificance,a play that wondered if Marilyn had ever met Albert Einstein and what those two would have to talk about.

The concept,written by Terry Johnson,was based on the discovery of an autographed photo of Einstein found in MM's personal items upon her death. Teresa Russell was cast as The Actress(everyone had symbolic titles instead of names here)and considering the random structure of the film,did what she could with it:

To be fair,some biopics of Marilyn do try to be creative with telling her story as a way of making her emotional struggles seem more sympathetic. HBO even gave it a shot back in 1996 with Norma Jean & Marilyn,which has two actresses playing the lead.

Ashley Judd was the Norma Jean side of her who was driven by a miserable childhood and loneliness to be a success while Mira Sorvino took on the Marilyn image after undergoing the typical Hollywood makeover of the time period.

The movie got a lot of mixed reactions but I give it credit for showcasing Marilyn as a woman divided within herself for personal and professional reasons,wanting to be whole. That was probably closer to the truth than any other depiction of her:

Regardless of how well My Week With Marilyn will be received(or the upcoming second adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' Blonde),the realness of Marilyn Monroe will most likely be an intangible element for anyone to preserve in any form of art. She lives on in her films and her truest legacy is as a muse for those looking to become a major media sensation.

Hopefully,such followers in her footsteps are savvy enough to avoid the pitfalls that Marilyn couldn't and know when it's time to leave the spotlight while still breathing:

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